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NASPO Events & Education

The Problem Solvers

The basis of any good business partnership is the ability to understand problems and develop a joint strategy to find a solution. In other words, communication and teamwork are essential. These were the central themes throughout NASPO’s 2018 Exchange conference this year in the Big Apple, New York, New York! It was here that purchasers and suppliers assembled to learn, discuss, and contemplate their relationships. Networking flourished while old friends reunited and new professional bonds were forged. The conference served as a platform in which buyers and suppliers took stock of innovative projects they had worked on together as well as learn about the vast resources NASPO has to offer. Conference-goers had the opportunity to attend large general sessions that featured keynote speakers and interactive, state government panels.
During a general session cleverly titled “Problem Solvers,” a panel of NASPO state members and suppliers sat on stage together to identify characteristics of effective supplier relationship management programs and discuss the impact of positive, open communication on the ability to reach successful procurement outcomes. Audience members were able to text their questions to the facilitator, who then asked the speakers to discuss them on stage. It was an effective way to outline strategies that could alleviate conflict in the state-supplier relationship, as well as keep all parties focused on solving the issues at hand. Although each session began with a script, it quickly morphed into a flowing, organic conversation between purchaser and supplier.
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Procurement Methodologies

Is Agile the Answer?

“We used waterfall to put a man on the moon, so it can’t be that bad,” said Aldila Lobo, Principal with Deloitte Consulting. This line certainly got a laugh from the crowd at NASPO’s Exchange conference in New York City – but it holds a fair amount of truth as well. “Waterfall” is the non-modular procurement methodology that originated in the construction and manufacturing arenas and became popular as a method for software development and procurement. The process of development literally flows from one stage to the next. Agile, on the other hand, focuses on flexibility, continuous improvement, an embrace of change, speed, and satisfied customers. Agile comes not in stages that build on one another, but in sprints, where pieces of the larger puzzle are developed one at a time.
While Agile development and procurement methods have taken hold as an elegant solution to decades-old problems, the simple truth is what Aldila alluded to – that sometimes, for some types of procurements, waterfall is still best. However, Agile and other modular procurement methods do two things that make it easier to manage large developments: they segment risk and increase transparency. While Agile and modular procurement aren’t just for information technology procurement and software development, those are the most popular applications.

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NASPO Events & Education

Ten Things Your Procurement Officer Wants You to Know

A unique aspect of NASPO’s Exchange conference is the opportunity it provides to state members and suppliers to come together and have open and honest conversation in a “safe space,” where no ideas are bad, and no questions are stupid. It is a learning and thinking environment that lends itself to useful and edifying conversations that might not otherwise take place. The session “Ten Things Your Procurement Officer Wants You to Know,” led by Stacy Gregg, Procurement Manager from the State of South Carolina, really seized the moment Exchange creates and used it to convey some hard-won truths to the supplier community in attendance.
In an overflowing room, Stacy walked through the “ten things” with care and precision – taking questions along the way and allowing CPOs and other procurement officials in the room to chime in with additional viewpoints and advice. Her list included insightful quotations from her fellow public procurement officials and is presented with many of those insights below:

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Technology & IT Procurement

Have a Safe Cyber 2018

It’s Monday morning and you have just arrived at work…congratulations!  You stroll in with sleep still in your eye as you overhear your coworkers reminisce about their excellent weekends.  You grab your Monday-sized cup of coffee and proceed to your desk, where everything seems just as you left it the Friday before.  Sitting down, you take a big gulp of coffee and flip on your computer.  “NOT AGAIN!” you cry, shaking your fist in the air.  As you shake out the frustration, you turn your attention back to your laptop, which is prompting you to “Please enter a new password.”  Begrudgingly, you attempt to reset your password, as something you will remember but “haven’t used in the past 60 days.”  Sound familiar? With so many digital platforms in today’s world, how are you supposed to keep up with all the information!? There’s a password for email, one for the Amazon, bank accounts, Facebook…the list goes on and on.
Frustrating? Perhaps.  Necessary? Absolutely.  But why?  Cybersecurity!

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Procurement Methodologies

Effective Sourcing Strategies: How Innovative is Your State Government?

Public procurement professionals often need to ask themselves, “Should we innovate, or can we use our traditional sourcing methods more effectively?” Many state central procurement offices have answered “Both!” to this question with much success.
Innovation continues to be a buzzword. We often hear calls for government innovation and rethinking public procurement, especially due to budget constraints or to keep up with the fast pace of innovation in technology.
Innovation can mean implementing new or better solutions. These could include changes as simple as a facelift to a traditional procurement method, adopting a new approach such as modular procurement, simplified multi-step bidding, communications with the supplier community prior to issuing a procurement opportunity or allowing the state to test new technologies before procuring them. Sometimes, the most innovative ideas come from procurement professionals in the trenches who work closely with stakeholders and can offer helpful feedback.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of hosting a webinar highlighting innovative and effective ways of procuring goods and services in state government. Read more “Effective Sourcing Strategies: How Innovative is Your State Government?”
Green Purchasing

A “Whirlwind” of Green

$180 billion – that is the estimated economic loss the United States will experience by the end of the century if no action is taken on climate change. States are increasingly interested in implementing sustainable purchasing practices and can often use their unique geographical locations and physical attributes to their advantage. Thinking creatively is key when diving into the world of sustainable purchasing, and in this post, we will explore some of the ways states are setting exceptional benchmarks in the pursuit for clean and storable energy.
In 2016, the “House Bill to Promote Energy Diversity” was signed by Massachusetts lawmakers. This bill, in part, directed utility companies to solicit offshore wind contracts by June 2017, requiring output every two years of at least 400 megawatts (MW) each. Each megawatt is equal to one million watts, which means that each MW can translate into power for hundreds of thousands of homes, depending on usage. Massachusetts’ ultimate goal is to generate 400 MW of storable wind energy, every two years, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard by placing wind farms in federally-owned waters.
Read more “A “Whirlwind” of Green”
Professional Development

A Skillset for the Future

Procurement as a profession is evolving at a pace that is increasingly in step with technology. While procurement was once seen as a transactional, process-driven function, technology is freeing us up to play a much more strategic part in driving organizational efficiencies and savings. Gone are the days of hanging out in the basement, pushing through stacks of purchase orders, and making purchasing decisions based on hunches. We are now being brought to the forefront, breaking out of silos and using data to make smarter decisions that drive savings for the enterprise.
As this transformation occurs, procurement leaders need to recognize the shift in skills that is needed for their office to stay in front of the wave. Much of what we looked for in a procurement officer in the past came down to several soft skills, which still form the foundation of what we look for today: Are you a good problem solver? Can you work with a variety of personalities? How do you handle stress? With these soft skills in place, a resourceful and hard-working new hire could hit the ground running and learn the technical aspects of a procurement job on the fly.
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Procurement Methodologies

Top Five Ways to Make Modular Procurement Work

If you’ve ever been faced with the frustrating situation of having a Phillips head screwdriver in hand when you actually need a flathead, then you know what it’s like to not have the right tool when you need it. To deal with the myriad of issues they face on an almost daily basis, state procurement officials need all the tools they can get their hands on, and modular or iterative procurement is a key addition to the toolbox.
Modular and Agile methods can be game-changers in procurement offices, especially when it comes to IT procurement. Recently, NASPO and NASCIO joined forces by bringing State Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs and State Chief Information Officers (CIOs) together to talk about how to improve IT procurement. One of the key recommendations of the task force of CPOs and CIOs was to “use iterative/non-waterfall procurement methodologies when appropriate to improve procurement cycles, add flexibility, and reduce risk.” Everyone agrees that Agile and other iterative procurement methods are the future of state procurement… but how do we get there from here?
The road to true iterative procurement can be a rocky one, and if a state procurement office doesn’t plan well, those rocks can turn into boulders. It is key to think through the switch-over to non-waterfall methods, communicate with staff and key stakeholders about the changes being made, and constantly re-evaluate whether what is happening is working toward the betterment of the procurement process.
Here are five tips to making modular and iterative procurement methods work in your state office: Read more “Top Five Ways to Make Modular Procurement Work”