For many, web-based trading is the future for public sector procurement. While it seems inevitable in some sense that e-procurement will be more accepted as a way of doing efficient, governable public sector purchasing, the recent recognition by the European Commission signals an important step.
The commission has called for eProcurement to be used for all public sector purchases by June 2016. There seems to little disagreement that this should give impetus to the move to e-procurement, it isn’t perhaps the panacea that it’s being billed as.
As Victoria Barnato pointed out in her blog last week, e-procurement no cure for bad business. “Without controls e-procurement is unlikely to lead to cost savings or greater efficiency. It also brings significant risk, both to value for money and to an organisation’s reputation,” she pointed out.
Nigel Clifford, the CEO of e-procurement provider ProcServe, which provides the UK Government’s eMarketplace, highlighted a similar need for scepticism to Procurement Leaders.
“While the intentions behind the 2016 deadline are admirable, it is unlikely that it will be met unless a compelling ROI case is made. To make that case, the EC need look no further than the UK, where proven procurement initiatives from both Westminster and the devolved authorities are leading the way.
"The EC clearly recognises the potential for eProcurement and should be applauded for putting this on the agenda, along with its work, for example, on the PEPPOL project. But ultimately driving adoption does not depend on an EC report, but by the benefits that are available to a Government’s P&L."
Governments are often stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to technology; either seeming to be in the dark ages, with paper and pencil as the tools for complicated processes, or struggling to manage an unwieldy piece of technology they can’t use.
Private sector organisations frequently, though not always it should be said, have to put the business case for engaging with technology ahead of any decision to adopt a new tool. They may not have the right selection criteria, but ultimately where tools like e-procurement work best is where they’re deployed to meet a certain requirement with a traceable business impact.
Governments would do well to keep this approach in mind.