03.14.2023 by Matthew Briscoe

Strategic Procurement: Highlights from the 2023 NIGP Leadership Summit


Varis recently traveled to St. Louis, MO to speak with some of this year’s NIGP Leadership Summit attendees. These engaging conversations provided valuable insights about the challenges procurement professionals are facing in the public sector this year. Governments have seen an unprecedented talent disruption across the industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the “Great Resignation.” This disruption fuels a need to attract, hire, and develop new talent. And with new talent comes the opportunity to find new solutions to overcome procurement challenges.

Leading strategically and driving for results

If there’s one thing government has, it’s an abundance of data. The challenge is contextualizing that data, setting benchmarks to measure it, and using it to tell a story. Public sector agencies are in a unique position to leverage data in a way that encourages strategic leadership and drives results. The right set of tools will make it easier for an organization to identify and address opportunities for improvement and set new cost-saving benchmarks.

One of the most important takeaways from this year’s conference is how crucial a role procurement professionals play in local government. They interact with every other department and have a potential to set the tone for the entire agency. When provided with the right tools, procurement professionals can deliver a wealth of information to help agencies find the best value when making purchasing decisions.

Leadership in times of change

Change presents opportunities for personal growth as well as opportunities for an organization to make greater investments in itself. Despite the rapid evolution of government technology in recent years, finding procurement solutions that complement existing investments and scale over time can be tough. In addition to technological considerations, local governments may face an uphill battle against internal pitfalls, including pushback from departments that prefer to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done. Effective leadership can address these obstacles by encouraging others to adapt to change with enthusiasm, responsibility, and ownership.

Identifying and building talent

According to the federal Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), roughly 50.5 million people resigned from their jobs in 2022, setting a new record. Many now refer to this event as “The Great Resignation.” Local government was not exempt from the phenomenon.

New employees expect to have access to the latest tools and software to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Outdated technology causes frustration and can reduce productivity, making it difficult to attract and retain staff. In today’s competitive job market, local governments that provide agencies with modern, easy-to-use procurement technology may more easily attract and retain new talent.

A rising tide lifts all ships

When it comes to new technology, government doesn’t often have the luxury of simply “trying things out.” Budgets, resources, and staff are limited, and you are responsible for being good stewards of tax dollars. But it’s important to keep an eye out for new opportunities and technology that help make procurement easier. By combining effective leadership with data-driven decision making, local governments are poised to meet the demands of today’s complex public procurement landscape.

Open communication in forums like NIGP allow professionals to share information about what is and what isn’t working for them. This information exchange helps governments facing limited resources, staff, and bandwidth to build on the work their peers have already done. Varis embraces this concept with an innovative procurement solution that provides access to shared public sector contracts from pre-vetted, competitive suppliers. The goods available through these shared contracts can then be purchased alongside items from your existing suppliers within a single easy-to-navigate marketplace.