As public procurement adjusts to a new normal, issues related to managing a distributed workforce under shifting rules and priorities have moved to the forefront.
Key among these are:
- Communication and Coordination
- Logistics, not Simply Purchasing
- Establishing new Agile Procedures
1. Communication and Coordination
For many public procurement organizations, the sudden shift to managing a remote workforce has had them open up Continuity of Operations Manuals to find that descriptions of alternative gathering locations for work do not apply to our current reality. Many procurement teams didn’t have employees on laptops that could transition to the home and had not established protocols for remote access to systems. And our interactions with suppliers have rapidly changed – processes for physical solicitation submissions and public bid openings have to be transformed in days, not years. The scramble to establish a functioning protocol while supporting urgent sourcing needs has led to many long hours and creative problem-solving.
2. Logistics, not Simply Purchasing
When demand dramatically outpaces supply, fulfilling needs is not as easy as finding a master contract and placing an order. It involves confirming actual availability, ensuring transit, and validating actual receipt in a way that elevates the need for procurement professionals to be active in the logistics of delivery. Moreover, the crisis creates new supply chain locations that have to be supported. What happens if the key staff at a data center have to shelter in place for months, and suddenly there are new needs to support catering and cleaning which were not present three weeks ago? This is when procurement has to get on the phone and create supply the old fashioned way.
3. Establishing Agile Emergency Procedures
In many jurisdictions procurement regulations have been waived or relaxed. This creates needed velocity, and encouraging procurement to apply system thinking and urgency to the work is critically needed. However, past disasters have taught us over and over again that there will be expectations down the line that we still maintained our core principles and protocols, both for future state-based audits and for potential federal reimbursements. Chief Procurement Officers need to establish core expectations of what going fast means, while still maintaining public trust.
Civic Initiatives has developed two publically available templates to support Chief Procurement Officers in rapidly establishing some core structure in this time where policy creation needs to be established with as little drag as possible.
First, a temporary COVID-19 Temporary Telework Agreement template for entities who have not previously established a telework policy. We give credit to the State of Idaho for creating a great base document that we further refined and templatized after review of several other relevant policies (and edits from some helpful state procurement officers!).
Second, a COVID-19 Emergency Procurement Procedures Memo template that covers the most critical elements of procurement policy likely to be affected during this period, with prompts on how to think about if polices are affected and to capture critical changes in one document.
Both templates are available for free download and use at Civic Initiatives.
Please reach out if you would like some assistance from the team in the use of these templates, or how we can otherwise be of service in these important times.