Skip to main content

Embracing Automation in Government Acquisition: Advice for Modernization

Ben Allen, Vice President, Public Sector Solutions
June 12, 2024

Ask federal acquisition professionals to describe their work environment, and these are some of the common complaints you will hear:

  • Reliance on paperwork 

  • Slow, disjointed legacy systems 

  • Understaffed and overworked teams

Read the FNN Executive Survey

Striving to Make Acquisition Decisions with Confidence and Clarity

Hear from employees on the frontlines about the tools they're using in government procurement.

Agencies typically have older procurement systems or too many systems. In either case, they are data entry intensive and error-prone, negatively impacting the procurement process and outcomes.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s Procurement Acquisition Lead Time memo from 2021 specifically calls for government modernization by “leveraging technology to modernize operations and help the workforce move from low- to high-value activities.”  

Clearly, there is a need for automation in government acquisition to digitize processes and free human workers for more value-added aspects of procurement. It would also be a huge boon to efficiency and transparency to centralize the large amounts of data that live in disparate systems across the enterprise.

3 key recommendations for government modernization in procurement

1. Automate processes

Automation in government acquisition processes is crucial for enhancing procurement effectiveness, transparency, and fiscal responsibility in public spending. Automation enhances efficiency by streamlining workflows, reducing manual errors, and expediting the procurement cycle—all of which free up time for overworked employees. 

It also promotes transparency and accountability, ensures fair competition and compliance with regulations, and enables cost savings through optimized purchasing decisions and reduced administrative overhead. By facilitating data-driven insights and analysis, automation empowers policymakers to make informed decisions and improve procurement practices over time. 

There are also smart ways to apply AI in automated government procurement. AI tools can help with a wide range of efforts, such as reducing risk in vendor selection, summarizing documents, sorting vendor queries by topic, and monitoring compliance, to name a few.

AI for Government Procurement: A Practical Guide

See the many ways AI can enhance your procurement processes.

For greatest efficiency, you’ll want to automate the acquisition process end to end. But since government procurement is a complex process with multiple phases, it’s not feasible to automate everything all at once. To achieve early wins that will make a big difference to employees doing the work, agencies can map out the user experience in the procurement lifecycle to determine the biggest needs and pain points. This helps identify the processes that are most ripe for automation to target first.

2. Connect enterprise systems

When systems aren’t linked and data is fragmented, you can’t automate processes end to end. Integrating the various systems used in government procurement is vital to streamlining operations, minimizing inefficiencies, and ensuring a seamless data flow between different stages of the procurement lifecycle, ultimately enhancing transparency and accountability in public spending. 

Various techniques exist for linking disparate systems. One approach involves consolidating multiple back-end systems into a unified front-end interface, allowing for smooth integration. With sufficient flexibility, data can flow effortlessly between these systems in both directions.

For more modern systems, web services can be used to integrate systems. Or organizations can use database connections and robotic process automation (RPA) to connect their systems where APIs are not present. Once systems have been integrated, the best way to manage your data is via a data fabric, a layer that connects to all your systems in one go, without the need for duplicate API or RPA calls.  

The key is to ensure that the system is adaptable enough to retrieve data from diverse sources and present it in a cohesive, modern interface for users. It's essential to facilitate data sharing between systems without relying on manual integration methods commonly used today.

The Data Fabric Guide for Public Sector Leaders

Learn the benefits of connecting your enterprise with a data fabric.

3. Adopt an agile approach

Federal acquisitions need to comply with stringent requirements specified in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and its supplements, which change regularly, as well as with other business rules, regulations, and policies.

Applications developed using low-code software that follow agile methodologies offer the most rapid and straightforward means to adapt your acquisition workflows to evolving compliance standards. Then when regulations change, these applications let you modify rules centrally, prompting the corresponding workflows to adjust automatically as required.

Appian’s Government Acquisition Management solutions are the only complete, modern, low-code solutions that automate the acquisition process end to end.

Get the eBook

Streamlining Government Procurement with a Modern Acquisition Management Solution

Learn more about the benefits of a low-code solution for government modernization.