Episode 11 of the Public Procurement Leaders Podcast with Guest Emilio Franco
In what will surely be a familiar refrain for many of our readers, Emilio Franco didn’t set out to become a public procurement professionals. It wasn’t until a program at his Canadian university offered a four-month “trial internship” that the possibility even crossed his mind. But like many of us, Emilio quickly grew to love procurement when the clarity and importance of the mission came quickly into focus.
“The first file I received was a scientist looking to analyze soil in indigenous lands.” He realized how important the outcome would be, and his responsibility to secure a good deal not just for the government, but for civil society and the general public as well. “It had a profound impact on me – the social good and delivery of government services” that comes with the role of a procurement officer.
As he worked on progressively more complex acquisitions, his career advanced as well. Now Emilio leads Canada’s Procurement Business Modernization Initiative where he is responsible for goals and outcomes that will affect social good and service delivery for an entire nation of citizens. And as Canada modernizes operations across all sectors, Emilio finds himself with the opportunity to elevate the role of procurement to deliver that modernization.
“Fundamentally, if procurement is so important in driving the delivery of social good, then we need to make sure we are investing in that function of government, and not impeding on objectives by delays or other procurement issues.” In effect, making procurement simpler, clearer, and less burdensome. This is how Emilio described his ultimate goals of modernization to host Raj Sharma on Episode 11 of the Public Procurement Leaders Podcast.
When asked to explain more about his plans to make the procurement system less burdensome, Emilio cited an example of how the process isn’t so easy for suppliers. “When a new supplier gets a contract, they have to fill out a form that is repeated for every agency they do business with,” even though the form contains the same information. “It’s a redundancy in process that we can simplify [and] eliminate through electronic systems.” And help is on the way for that electronic systems delivery, with Infosys Public Systems on contract to integrate SAP Ariba into Canada’s public procurement system.
But of course, change is hard, and not just a function of technology. This is especially true with such a people-driven process as procurement. “It is fundamental to look at how the business of procurement is done…how are the stakeholders involved in the process, and how do we support them every step of the way?” The answer to this rhetorical question lies in Emilio’s modernization mantra: taking a pragmatic, progressive, and agile approach that focuses on users at the end of the day.
“We have to think about how to improve the way they work and help us reflect on how we approach projects,” even if it requires changing the language of how procurement is done. In Emilio’s words, it’s taking “a holistic look at every aspect of the change that’s occurring. From a leadership perspective, it’s ensuring that management is fully aligned, that messaging is consistent, to drive the changes that we need to drive. But also from the ground up; fundamentally, having the people who will be impacted by the change to lead the design.”
From workshops to user experience interviews, Emilio’s modernization initiative puts people and process first, and that’s a good recipe for success. His parting advice to procurement leaders looking to modernize their processes is to know that change starts at the top, but is sustained by the people at the bottom.
“Be inclusive, involve people from the ground up, and engage them early in the process. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Learn more about Emilio’s efforts to modernize public procurement in Canada by listening to our full episode of the Public Procurement Leaders Podcast.