Episode 16 of the Public Procurement Leaders Podcast featuring Tammy Rimes
As a career purchasing agent for the City of San Diego, Tammy Rimes has witnessed procurement evolution firsthand. “In the past, for something as simple as a streetlight, we’d look at the specs and buy the same light we’d always bought” she told host Raj Sharma on Episode 16 of the Public Procurement Leaders Podcast. “Now that your typical street light has become much more complicated in the past few years, you have to learn from your vendors!”
Technology changes have directly impacted everything from fleet vehicles to farm equipment. “They all have computer systems, even garbage cans. Tech applies to nearly everything we buy or their interrelations.” Her advice on staying abreast of such changes? “Get out and spend time with your customer, understanding why they do what they do. Get around the organization” so you can see the impact that evolution has on the way work gets done.
One such evolution is happening within the workforce, as Tammy observed during her time with San Diego. While some lament the clashing of generational differences, she sees an opportunity for positive changes to a cumbersome government process. “The millennials acknowledge [process] is important, but they want to challenge the status quo. That’s a good thing, but it can be stressful. So I challenge people to be patient with questions like ‘why do we do it this way.’ If your answer is ‘because we’ve always done it this way,’ that requires some introspection.”
In the past, for something as simple as a streetlight, we’d look at the specs and buy the same light we’d always bought
With such a cumbersome procurement process, Raj asked why a company should even consider the public sector marketplace. It’s mostly economic, says Tammy, reminding us that government buys in good times and bad. “But it can be a long game, and it does require significant resources to respond to opportunities, which can scare small businesses away.”
There are positive trends creating a more favorable environment for small and emerging businesses. One such change is directly under her current purview as the Executive Director of National Cooperative Procurement Partners (NCCP). Cooperative purchasing programs (Coops) are “the Costco model, for government. A small district in Kansas can have the same buying power as Los Angeles.” Despite NCCP being a young organization, Tammy believes its role as a network of public sector leaders, industry representatives, and strategic suppliers is important work to promote the utility of Coops by state and local buyers across the country.
One of Tammy’s first actions as Executive Director was to assemble a Roadmap to a Cooperative Purchasing Strategy. The document promises to help any buyer, from even the smallest localities, ask the right questions and consider the most important issues that everyone must evaluate before adopting a cooperative procurement strategy. The roadmap is supported by a well-researched white paper from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation entitled Cooperative Procurement: Today’s Contracting Tool, Tomorrow’s Contracting Strategy.
Leading a national organization isn’t a typical post-retirement job for most former civil servants, but then Tammy has never been a typical civil servant. “Never stop learning, never stop challenging yourself. In a civil service system, as people near retirement, they tend to slow down, not learning anything different or new. The exact opposite should happen. Even after you retire, always be stretching yourself and trying something new!”
Sage advice for anyone, at any point in their career.