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NIGP Virtual Forum Recap: The Future of Procurement is Partnership

Thanks to NIGP for a great conference! Check out the NIGP Virtual Forum website for the full list of speakers at this year's forum.

Last week, more than 1,500 procurement professionals gathered virtually for the 75th annual NIGP Forum. For five jam-packed days, procurement officials from around the country came together to learn and grow from each other’s experiences.  

In session topics ranging from cornerstone concepts to cooperative purchasing to lessons in leadership, one takeaway became clear: the future of procurement is partnership.   

Gone are the days of an “us vs. them” supplier/government relationship characterized by driving the lowest quote. As procurements become increasingly complex, strategic partnerships create the “win-win” scenario: government projects benefit from the supplier’s expertise and creative solutions, and suppliers enjoy the stability and room to innovate that accompany long-term, trusting partnerships.  

Building strong relationships with suppliers doesn’t happen overnight. Here are a few of our biggest questions (and takeaways) from the NIGP Virtual Forum:  

What is a strategic partnership? 

Before thinking about how to build these relationships, it’s important to think about what exactly characterizes a strong supplier/government relationship.  

In her session, Better Together: Forging World Class Partnerships, NIGP Consulting Program Manager Marcheta Gillespie shares the six key elements of a strong partnership:  

  1. Shared vision and purpose. We are both working towards the same end goal.  
  2. Mutual benefit and value. We want suppliers to be successful and make money. The better the supplier is doing, the better they can serve our project, too.  
  3. Trust and integrity. We trust in each other to execute. This trust instills confidence and fosters communication. Which leads us to… 
  4. Open and transparent communication. We share information with each other Information sharing (while respecting the integrity of the procurement process) and trust each other to do the same. Information sharing is what drives the value of strong partnerships.  
  5. Leveraging strengths. We empower each other to do what we each do best.  
  6. Creativity and innovation. We welcome and aspire for opportunities to do things differently. 

How can we adjust our processes to encourage strategic partnership?  

In their session, How Unlikely Partners Can Make You Successful: The Realized Value in a Collaborative Buyer & Supplier Relationship and Why It Matters, Jeff Peskuski, David Wetzel, and Carrie Mathis – of Graybar, Canon, and Orange County Government, respectively – gave a few tips to shift government processes to create more strategic partnerships.  

One way Orange County accomplishes this, particularly for complex procurements, is through pre-solicitation. Prior to putting together a formal RFP, Carrie’s team hosts a meeting with potential vendors to inform them of the upcoming solicitation and open the floor to any feedback. These conversations often reveal potential risks and roadblocks that were not apparent to Carrie’s team, knowledge that ultimately helps create a stronger solicitation.  

David provides one quick fix to your RFP process that inspire collaboration and partnership, without compromising the integrity of the procurement: add a section to your RFP that allows vendors to suggest changes. This invites suppliers to share their expertise – input may very well reveal potential opportunities for improvement to the solicitation. Should that be the case, you make this update clear to all suppliers by releasing an addendum.  

What tools can I use to identify strategic suppliers? 

Kimberly Bullivant, Marketing Manager for the Department of General Services in Pennsylvania, shared an all-too-familiar procurement challenge faced by a Pennsylvania official, ‘Fred:’ when looking for a vendor to supply a new HVAC, he is paralyzed by choice.
A targeted search within the Commonwealth’s cooperative purchasing program, COSTARS, yielded 110 results. By moving his search to Procurated, a ratings and review platform for the public sector, that same search is quickly narrowed down to the 10 highest rated suppliers in Pennsylvania. And, they were accompanied by dozens of reviews written by his peers.  

Past performance is the best indicator of future performance, said Procurated Founder and CEO David Yarkin. By leveraging the platform, procurement officials can confidently identify the best-fit supplier to build a strong partnership with.  

How do I avoid red flags that lead to fraud (other than reading supplier reviews on Procurated)?  

Choosing the wrong supplier can have a wide variety of consequences, ranging from annoyances like a bad customer service experience or a late delivery to extreme and dire cases of severe injury or jail time. 

In their session titled Ethics: Recognizing Fraud & Avoiding Offers You Can’t Refuse, Teresa Collins, the Purschasing Manager from Tampa Bay Water, and Ireyan Clark-Sam, the Senior Contracts & Procurement Analyst for Missouri City, explained the common causes that lead government leaders to commit fraud, including:  

  • Living beyond their means 
  • Financial difficulties 
  • Unusually close association with a vendor or customer 
  • Control issues and unwillingness to share duties 
  • Family problems or other outside influences 
  • A “wheeler dealer” attitude 
Collins and Clark-Sam posit that leaders that fit into one or several of the groups above are uniquely impacted by The Fraud Triangle of: opportunity, rationalization, and pressure. And to prove it, they shared two case studies showcasing the illegal behavior of a mayor and a procurement officer, both of whom are now federal inmates.  

Through a culture of transparency that includes preventative policies that make criminal behavior difficult and undesirable, this is an issue that can be minimized in healthy relationships between governments and suppliers.  

Thanks for a great week, NIGP!  

If you weren’t able to visit the Procurated virtual booth last week, feel free to reach out to our team with any questions or comments at Alex@procurated.com. And for access to more information on thousands of highly-rated suppliers in hundreds of product and service categories, visit www.procurated.com. 

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Procurated helps public sector buyers make more informed buying decisions through peer reviews. It is completely free to use.

Write and read reviews, find new suppliers, manage vendor performance and more!