Getting the Most Out of Technology Purchasing Frameworks – Global Government Forum

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The surge in demand for online utilities triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how useful technology purchasing frameworks can be. During a GGF webinar, Jack Aldane heard experts discuss the benefits of these digital markets and why purchasing managers should always keep the end user in mind.

When Elodie Bouneau, platform director at the Canadian Digital Service (CDS) was growing up in France, she heard about the endless difficulties of creating software to facilitate calls for tenders (calls for tenders) and purchases from her entrepreneur father. Twenty years later, as a federal employee in Canada, Bouneau found that many of the same difficulties persist to this day.

To help overcome the challenges of purchasing technology, some governments have established lists of pre-approved vendors, products, and services, called technology purchasing frameworks. These digital marketplaces were the subject of discussions with four speakers, including Bouneau, during a Global Forum of Governments webinar held in December.

Over the past decade, technology purchasing frameworks have been proven to reduce administration costs, enhance compliance, and help smaller public service organizations procure technology. And in the countries where they have been introduced, they are well used. To give an idea of ​​the scale of the market, spending via digital executives in the UK, for example, has increased from a record £ 800million (US $ 1.1 billion) to 3.2 billion pounds sterling (US $ 4.4 billion) in 2020-2021.

Cristina Caballe

According to Cristina Caballé, executive director of IBM Global Public Sector – IBM was the knowledge partner of the webinar – one of the main benefits that purchasing managers and suppliers can gain from using technology purchasing frameworks is the possibility of reducing the lead time.

She said what previously took procurement officers six to nine months now only takes a few weeks. Once an agency knows what it wants to buy, technology purchasing executives deliver standardized components that are ready to buy just like in the market, and the deals offered by executives are very flexible, making it easy to purchase. change of course if necessary.

“Pre-established terms and conditions [mean that] suppliers can simply cancel the framework to meet the requirements. It injects agility [and] innovation, ”Caballé said.

Large and small suppliers

Another benefit of technology purchasing frameworks is that it allows government departments to access and source small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more easily.

Together with the Public Procurement Administration, Rotem Einav of the Digital Israel National Bureau and his team designed the Digital Services Bidding, a platform that allows the government to purchase services from freelancers and to stores as well as to major suppliers. The central digital purchasing system reduces bureaucratic requirements for insurance and guarantees, thus paving the way for SMEs.

Rotem Einav

Once a need is identified, a project brief is submitted and processed, producing a shortlist of suppliers from which to choose. Out of 360 suppliers who applied to be on the framework, around 160 were selected. Of these, 90% had never worked with the government.

According to Einav, the project was a great success. “In terms of what we wanted to achieve, we really did it,” she said.

However, while technology purchasing frameworks can be more inclusive, some of the panelists explained that, if they are too complex, they can actually crowd out small vendors.

Sal Uddin, business director of technology solutions and results for the UK’s Crown Commercial Service – an executive agency through which around 72% of public procurement is awarded – has said that while it is tempting to pursue a “Amazon-esque” vision of optimal performance, this does not necessarily benefit the end user, let alone the smaller players in the market.

Caballé agrees. “If frameworks are too complex or have high barriers to entry, it is difficult to be inclusive, and governments could lose the opportunity to work in this larger ecosystem of partners who can enrich and can also provide this agility in future projects, ”she said.

Buy or build?

However, there are times when tech purchasing executives aren’t the right choice. According to Bouneau, building a system in-house is sometimes wiser than sourcing from the private sector. As she explains, procurement officers should first think carefully about the problem they are trying to solve, rather than rushing to blindly buy a solution they think they can solve.

“Don’t say ‘I’m going to buy a DSL [digital signal processor], or ‘I’m going to buy an SSL [secure sockets layer]. Look at what you are trying to solve for government officials and your end users, ”Bouneau said.

Elodie Bouneau

Building systems in-house often allows officials to deliver better and faster, she said, because it eliminates a lengthy procurement process. Although she concedes that this requires capacity and resources, which are not always available.

Regarding private sector procurement, Bouneau advised officials to focus on what she calls the “B-2-B-2-C [business-to-business-to-consumer] experience ”, thoroughly testing any solution and ensuring that it is both“ fit for purpose and context ”to ensure that end users have a positive experience.

“In Canada, we absolutely have to be bilingual, so we have to integrate that into everything we use. Security is [also] really important, [as is] data confidentiality and its application, as well as accessibility and inclusiveness, ”explained Bouneau.

When asked if he thinks buying from an executive is always an organization’s best choice, Uddin replied “no”. “I think there is something to a ‘do’ versus a ‘buy’ approach,” he said. “But it comes with its own risks and payback schedule, for which there is often not enough patience in the cycle of government changes.”

Any decision to buy or build largely depends on what gets bought in the first place, he added. “The more commodity-based a purchase, the more amenable it is to being purchased from a framework.”

In Caballé’s view, the potential for co-creation, innovation and creativity within procurement processes can be hampered if a purchasing framework is overused. “If the process becomes too framed within a framework of purchasing technology, it could [risk] do not fill [your] objectives, ”she said.

A look to the future

Panelists agreed that there were lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, including that government entities must remain open to partnerships with the private sector to address challenges such as skyrocketing demand for services, gaps in terms of skills and infrastructure weaknesses.

Sal Uddin

Uddin said the Crown Commercial Service is not afraid to bring in experts from partner organizations and the private sector in cases where internal capacity is not sufficient. “Let’s face it… we’ve drained our ability in government to deliver services internally,” he said. “I’m worried that ‘value now’ outweighs ‘value later’ in life, but ‘investing now’ is not a voice seller.”

So, what future for government technology purchasing executives? Caballé sees one based on collaboration between governments, as well as opening up to new ecosystems of procurement practices. Such ecosystems are likely to be based on blockchain and digital currency technologies, some of which are already being used to verify suppliers, large and small, in the process of integrating growing networks.

“The next big step is to streamline and simplify supplier qualification, integration and lifecycle management with these kinds of technologies,” she said.

Echoing Uddin’s previous warning about the dangers of Amazon-style aspirations, Einav said his key advice to governments would simply be, “Plan big, act small.” “

“There is always something small that you can buy that will take you to the next level of the project,” she said. “Do it in an agile way. “

Speaking as someone who has seen first-hand that procurement challenges span generations, Bouneau urged public servants to keep their successors in mind when adopting new technology. “For the next wave of public servants, when they come back to what you’ve adopted, technologically, ask them what they think about it, so you can build them the best foundation for the future. “

Technology purchasing executives have undoubtedly ironed out what has traditionally been a long and drawn-out process. They may not be the ultimate solution, but they have a myriad of benefits and everyone believes digital markets are here to stay and grow.

Melvin B. Baillie