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NASPO Exchange in Review: What We Learned from Talking to 100 State Purchasing Professionals

Last week, hundreds of state government officials and suppliers tuned in virtually from kitchen tables, home offices, spare bedrooms, and socially distant workplaces to attend NASPO Exchange 2021. While the learning sessions alone make NASPO Exchange an energizing conference to attend, the core purpose of the meeting is what sets it apart: to nurture strong relationships between the supplier community and state governments.  
 
A sales pitch under the guise of a conference, then? Not quite. The National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) recognizes the important role that suppliers play in cultivating innovation in public procurement. Rather than keeping vendors in the dark about current state procurement trends and policy shifts, NASPO Exchange invites them to join the conversation.  

A Renewed Focus on Supplier Performance Metrics 

 
Over the course of the three-day event, the Procurated team had conversations with more than 100 state procurement officials. As you’d expect, each state has their own unique set of challenges and priorities headed into the end of the fiscal year.  
 
But across all of these conversations a common theme emerged: supplier performance metrics. Whether a state was focused on overcoming a budget deficit, implementing a supplier diversity program, or improving use of cooperative contracts, states are looking for the best way to baseline and track supplier performance in an actionable way.   
 
Supplier performance data can be used in a variety of ways throughout the procurement lifecycle. Here are a few use cases top-of-mind to NASPO members:  
 

Preparing for Anticipated Budget Deficits 

 
With decreased income tax revenues from 2020, state governments are still bracing for the economic ripple effects of COVID-19. Public procurement professionals we spoke with are already looking for innovative ways to reduce costs. 
 
Suppler performance data plays a key role in this effort. When armed with the right datapoints, category and contract managers can more easily identify cost-savings opportunities and segment suppliers. Purchasers can find ways for high-performing suppliers to have an even greater impact on the organization. And, underperforming suppliers can be replaced by a more cost-effective alternative or given the attention they need to raise performance levels. Either is an efficiency win for the state. 
 

Maintain High Quality Standards When Introducing New Suppliers 

 
Adding a new supplier is always hard. You work and re-work your bid request, go back and forth with applicants, and pore over the bids. You do your best with supplier-provided references to understand past performance. But still, there is always that sense of unknown when bringing a new supplier on. And that feeling is intensified when considering a business that has minimal, if any, public sector experience.  
 
NASPO members shared how they plan to use supplier performance data to maintain high quality standards in new suppliers. First is referencing the analytics of your highest performing suppliers before you begin sourcing. Patterns found here can reveal what it takes to work successfully with your organization. What is their relative cost to the market average? Contract review cycle? What digital order options or delivery time windows enable your buyers to be most efficient? Armed with this information, teams can be better equipped to evaluate a new supplier.  
 
After the new supplier is added, state procurement officials stressed the importance of diligent data collection starting day one. These metrics create high-value touchpoints between the contract manager and the supplier and can turn a bumpy start into a fruitful partnership. 
 

Create a Measurable Impact on Supplier Diversity 

 
Amidst nationwide calls for racial justice, there is an incredible sense of urgency for state procurement officials to create measurable impact on supplier diversity and inclusion.  
 
Supplier diversity programs are not new to state procurement. But too often, these programs have been under resourced and failed to create systematic change. Data will play a huge role in creating and proving impact by:  

  1. Creating a strong baseline to show where your supplier diversity currently stands 
  2. Analyzing that data to identify opportunities for improvement and set smart goals 
  3. Track and communicate progress to your communities.  
 
Luckily, there are several states who have set excellent examples of how to successfully increase supplier diversity and inclusion. Click to learn more about Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Nebraska’s programs!  
 

There has never been a more exciting time to join public procurement 

 
Another trend we’re excited to report: a lot of state procurement departments are hiring! The events of the past year have shown how important public procurement is to the success and well-being of our communities. There is no better time to join a growing, innovating and impactful profession working hard to do right by their communities.   
 
Thanks, NASPO Exchange for a great week! 
  Bernadette Launi

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