Because a contract with third party vendors, consultants and business partners can involve several organizations—including department managers, supply chain management, legal and others—it’s easy to tell when a procurement process needs optimization. Information is hard to find, vendor competition is low and project success is often based on how much criticism it received. One might hear a procurement professional say, “This project went well—none of the bidders protested.”

With enterprise content management (ECM) systems, organizations can simplify procurement activities, accelerate contract signatures and help enforce contract compliance. Here are five reasons to automate your procurement process:

1. Rogue Purchasing Due to a Lack of Oversight

Entities that operate without the help of their procurement offices are at higher risk of non-compliance, mainly because procurement professionals cannot perform due diligence on procurement that takes place without their knowledge.

Using a robust enterprise content management system, the procurement office can host an online portal through which government entities submit procurement requisitions. The requesting entity uses an electronic form and fills out essential information, such as:

  • Key functions the needed goods or services must perform
  • The expected or approved budget
  • The date on which the goods or services must be delivered

The form can include required fields, drop-down menus and pop-up calendars to reduce erroneous or incomplete requisitions. Upon submission, the procurement administrator receives an automated email that a new requisition has been submitted and a link to access it in the secure ECM repository.

A drop-down menu prevents typos and helps the procurement office filter requisitions.

2. Information Overload

Government entities must demonstrate compliance throughout the procurement cycle. This results in a massive information trail.

Without a method for organizing procurement documentation, information gets stored in file cabinets, email inboxes, network drives, personal devices and other non-centralized, non-secure locations.

Using the online portal, the procurement office can publish requests for information (RFI) and requests for quote (RFQ), which include a link to an electronic form.

Vendors bidding on the project use the electronic form to submit their proposals and any supporting documents. Once again, this makes vendor comparison simpler and more clear cut, as all the responses will have a consistent format.

The ECM system can also be configured so that RFI and RFQ responses, supporting documents or any communication related to one vendor are automatically filed in that vendor’s folder.

Electronic forms ensure that RFI and RFQ submissions have consistent formats and can easily be compared.

3. Communication Breakdown

Procurement offices want to attract enough bidders to create competition—increasing the likelihood of finding a high-value offering. However, the more vendors that compete for a bid, the more challenging it becomes to manage communication with those vendors.

After RFP responses and supporting documents are submitted through the form on the procurement office’s online portal, the ECM system stores all proposals in the repository and routes them to their necessary reviewers.

Because document shortcuts, as opposed to document copies, are routed between reviewers, they actually review the same exact document. This means that reviewers can see each other’s comments and edits, increasing collaboration and clarification without slowing down the review process.

The ECM system tracks the creation of each annotation in the pane on the right.

4. Unnecessary Complexity

Each stage of the procurement cycle acts as a compliance checkpoint—a chance to ensure that all procedures have been followed before moving forward. Therein lies the catch-22 of procurement: this long list of steps increases complexity and creates opportunities for error.

Reviewing and approving RFP responses is faster when an electronic document arrives via email rather than a hard-to-sort stack of paper delivered via a courier service. Using an ECM system , after RFP responses are submitted through the online form, the administrator receives an automated email that a new response needs attention.

Because response documents are automatically routed to different reviewers, the procurement administrator can see where each response is in the review process at any given time, ensuring that all documents are reviewed in a timely fashion.

An automated email keeps the procurement administrator aware of incoming documents.

5. Procurement Office Bottlenecks

A procurement office lacking resources, manpower and efficient document processing can grow overwhelmed with procurement requests. Imagine a town with one procurement office and twenty government entities: with a large enough volume of procurement requests, that office becomes more of a bottleneck than a service center.

The procurement office works with the requesting government entity to select a final bidder. To make this decision, the procurement office emails shortcuts to all the documentation stored in the “consider” folder of the ECM system. The procurement office and government entity make annotations on the documents, keeping information centralized and email inboxes empty.

The procurement office, government entity and relevant legal parties collaborate in the same way to draft a contract. Electronic signatures can also be used to expedite contract finalization.

The procurement office stores all documentation in the ECM system.

When procurement offices streamline how they procure goods and services, they add more value to their government entities, residents and vendor community. They become an office that people want to work with, not avoid.

Learn how an ECM system can streamline your procurement process – download your complimentary copy of the eBook, How Government Agencies Can Digitize Procurement!

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