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A Modern Workplace for a Modern World – Part 2

Monday, August 7, 2017  
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When watching a movie, the viewer can often estimate what time period the scene is being played based on the technology throughout the film. For instance, if a large black & white television is in the corner of the room with rabbit ear antennae, or the protagonist is running the city streets looking for a payphone to call the police, then you can guess that it most likely a few decades back. While government is not always cutting edge, have you ever walked into your own government offices, looked at the automation that is being used, and wondered what era your own teams are working in?


With technology progressing at increasingly faster rates, procurement teams must continuously adapt to the latest technology and purchasing tools. While procurement teams have some level of knowledge about a wide range of products and services, customers departments sometimes have greater detailed knowledge about the tools, commodities and services that may be specific to their operations. For instance, when it comes to automated meters for the water department; drones for life guards; cameras for law enforcement; and tablets and software for maintaining warehouse inventory or to be used by in-the-field personnel such as building inspectors, those specific technologies may put procurement at a slight knowledge disadvantage.


Customer Departments Drive the Demand


The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) representing state chief information officers (CIOs) and information technology (IT) executives and managers from the states, territories and District of Columbia, called for state information technology procurement reform, driven by its 2015 survey findings in which nearly half the surveyed CIOs disliked many current procurement processes related to IT purchases. Acknowledging that the changes could only occur when IT and Procurement collaborate, the report had specific recommendations related to contracts and processes for terms and conditions, bonding, and greater coordination across the organization’s structure to minimize “silo” decisions regarding technology purchases.


In classrooms across the country, historically textbooks steered the curriculum. Bob Marconi, Vice-President of Connection states, “over the last few years, One-to-One initiatives and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) have changed the direction of teaching. More and more, students are turning on their tablets, iPhones, and notebooks to research relevant topics. One-to-One implementations and BYOD are coming of age in many classrooms, creating greater learning opportunities, and changing the educational landscape.”


Steelcase partnered with global research firm Ipsos for an unprecedented research effort – spanning 17 countries and 12,480 participants - to measure relevant dimensions of employee engagement and workplace satisfaction. The final report, entitled “Engagement and the Global Workplace” identified 5 key findings including one related to technology: “Fixed Technology Exceeds Mobile 2:1.” The report notes, “Despite the high global adoption of mobile devices for personal use, the vast majority of study participants report that their organizations provide twice as much fixed technology versus mobile options for work. This may be the result of an intentional strategy based on the type of work people are doing, or it could reflect the challenges of keeping up with constantly changing technology.”


Staying Up-To-Date: How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?


There are growing complaints that government procurement processes don’t always allow for the latest or most innovative technologies to be proposed or implemented. Being open to new ideas, while being careful to not purchase un-proven or novel solutions is a delicate balance for  procurement teams to maintain.  Bringing in the newest technology isn’t the only issue – security of data, information and the devices themselves – has created a growing concern. Connection’s Marconi notes, “With these new mobile makeovers come security challenges, network bandwidth issues, and new strains on lifecycle management strategies, just to name a few. While immediate information is important…, so is the security of every device and your administration’s data.”


Outside of, and before a procurement process, suppliers are often the best source of information on current or future trends. As a large supplier of products and services to all sectors of government, Office Depot government sales teams emphasize that “We have a very significant public sector/government customer portfolio and it's our observation that many our clients in this space are as progressive and forward-thinking as our private sector clients. The continuous learning, sharing of best practices, and networking that public procurement professionals embark on (through organizations such as NCPP and NIGP) at the local and national level, goes a long way towards driving innovation in public sector procurement practices.” Using the exhibit hall, one-on-one meetings, and attending product demonstrations is an avenue to stay ahead of the curve.


In the growing field of cooperative contracting, new technologies might also be “bundled” into an existing contract.  A contract for major equipment manufacturer systems as well as thousands of peripheral products will continue to be updated over time as new products are developed or existing products improved. Aligning to a contract with a manager who keeps on top of those details, allows a procurement professional to be up-to-date on the latest offerings, without having to conduct all the independent research for every component. Office Depot notes, “Employees are working differently, and digitalization and mobilization of the workforce is significantly impacting the way our customers work. Therefore, we must be responsive to these changes.”


Internet of Things (IoT), through which everyday objects are connected via the Web, is predicted to alter procurement practices in significant ways—directly connecting team members with vendors, other teams, and customer departments. Technology touches all parts of the organization and procurement is the middle - staying current with technology, meeting the needs of its customers, and maintaining standards for ongoing updates and maintenance.  

National Cooperative Procurement Partners | 4248 Park Glen Rd.| Minneapolis, MN 55416 | 952.928.4660 |

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