It was wonderful to be out in San Marcos meeting with the men and women of Texas Procurement. As we got a chance to meet attendees from across the state and sit in some of the sessions, it was exciting to see the focus on professional development of attendees. One topic that continued to come up was the idea of automating work processes – the good and the bad.
A natural reaction among procurement professionals is to be skeptical of digital transformation. Two concerns we often hear are: (1) the automated processes are not nearly as accurate as my own work and (2) automated processes threaten the employment of myself or my team members. On the other hand, a constant message we heard from attendees was how overworked they were! Particularly in smaller counties and municipalities, procurement professionals are very familiar with wearing “multiple hats” and taking on responsibility for everything from budget to contracts to payroll.
In an environment such as this, digital transformation becomes a force multiplier rather than a method of replacement. A force multiplier empowers an individual to project their capability and control over a wider span than they normally would. Consider the simple automation of workflow approvals. Once implemented correctly, this creates efficiencies that save hours of time without jeopardizing the procurement professional’s control over the purchasing process. Rather than being occupied with tracking down paper approvals, the procurement professional can instead complete more approvals in the same amount of time or focus on the higher order issues of their role.
Another element relevant to discussing automation is opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. In the procurement environment, professionals must often make judgment calls on the priorities they will give attention to, foregoing working on other activities that will help their agencies. Automation as a force multiplier enables them to do more with less and reduces the number of trade-offs they have to make.
When it comes to discussing potential automation in the procurement space, consider the following questions:
Our experience at TxPPA suggest that the future is bright for public procurement in Texas. Many of the professionals were eager to continue growing their capabilities and were invigorated by the value they added to their agency’s public mission. We look forward to seeing the ways procurement professionals continue to harness automation to achieve their objectives.