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Key Areas for Automating Your eProcurement Process

Sarah Fixel, Solutions Director, State and Local Government
December 15, 2023

Procurement officers in state and local government agencies have a lot of responsibilities, including:

  • Requirements planning

  • Policy and procedure development

  • Risk management

  • Vendor management 

  • Contract negotiation

  • Cost optimization

It’s a highly strategic role, so it follows that a procurement officer’s time and effort should be spent on decision-making and not on mundane or administrative tasks. Requiring them to focus on tedious tasks like invoice processing is not a good use of their time. It would be akin to expecting a CEO to reconcile receipts against travel reports or to schedule and reschedule meetings.

Yet due to the manual nature of government procurement, procurement teams are saddled with many tedious tasks that take up a large portion of their time. State and local government employees frequently express frustration with laborious and time-consuming procurement processes. And this excess of tedious tasks not only leads to frustration but also lengthens the buying cycle, meaning the agency can’t provide required services fast enough. 

The effective functioning of state and local governments often hinges on procuring goods and services. That is why procurement and contract management are vital roles at state and local agencies—and governments need to treat these tasks with the seriousness they deserve by implementing an eProcurement system. 

[ What is eProcurement? Find out more. ]

eProcurement processes enhance efficiency.

Adopting an eProcurement system can greatly reduce procurement professionals’ administrative burden. Electronic procurement streamlines the entire procurement lifecycle, from requisition to payment, by automating tasks such as vendor management, requisition approval workflows, and purchase order processing. 

[ Get best practice tips on gaining buy-in for your eProcurement software. ]

This digital transformation reduces manual intervention, minimizes errors, speeds up decision-making, and provides real-time visibility into the procurement pipeline. By automating routine tasks, eProcurement processes allow state agencies to allocate resources more strategically, reduce processing times, enhance transparency, and ultimately achieve cost savings.

3 eProcurement processes to automate first.

Automating certain processes with an eProcurement system could have an outsized impact on procurement departments. These would be the first to tackle to really make a difference in employees’ daily lives:

  • Invoice processing

  • Evaluations

  • Contract actions

1. Invoice processing.

Invoice processing can be onerous due to its manual complexities and potential for errors. The traditional invoice workflow involves a series of intricate steps, from extracting data from paper invoices to manually inputting data into financial systems. 

When performed manually, invoice processing requires the procurement officer to capture the invoice number, date, and amount and tie the invoice to specific deliverables. The irritation of this task is heightened by the unstructured nature of invoices, meaning the content lacks a predefined or organized format. And they can arrive as different file types like Excel, PDF, or Word. Since the location of the different fields varies by vendor, they have to constantly skim each invoice to find the fields they are looking for. Then the officer needs to meticulously verify each detail, such as product quantities, prices, and terms, and ensure accuracy and compliance with purchase orders. 

Adopting an automated eProcurement system for invoice processing alleviates these challenges. AI-powered process automation tools can pull the right information and enter it accurately, reducing manual intervention, enhancing accuracy, and streamlining the overall invoicing workflow. 

[ Learn about the most pressing technology needs from six industry leaders who discuss the future of procurement. ]

2. Evaluations.

Evaluating vendor responses can take months. It is often the activity that managers put off “until later.” The process can be challenging due to the complexity of project requirements, diverse evaluation criteria, and the subjective nature of certain assessments. The extensive documentation and detailed bids submitted by vendors in competitive scenarios demand meticulous review, often straining resources and time constraints. 

Evaluators must navigate intricate legal and ethical compliance issues, assess financial stability, and manage the subjectivity inherent in interpreting technical proposals. Additionally, the potential for bid protests and disputes requires officers to ensure transparent, well-documented decisions that align with procurement rules. 

An automated eProcurement process complete with scoring criteria and timelines makes it easy for evaluators to conduct the evaluation in a codified manner. Alerts regarding due dates built into the eProcurement process help keep the procurement on track. And making the evaluation process visible will motivate officers to handle it sooner, which means providing constituents faster access to much-needed services.

3. Contract actions.

Contract actions are daily activities that often require extensive paperwork, coordination among various stakeholders, and adherence to strict regulatory compliance. The manual handling of renewals, amendments, and terminations can lead to delays, errors, and inefficiencies, especially when dealing with a large volume of contracts. 

An automated eProcurement process can streamline these tasks by providing a centralized platform for managing contract actions. Automation enables efficient tracking of contract terms, automates the renewal process through predefined rules, facilitates the creation and approval of amendments, and ensures timely termination when necessary. Pre-populated templates enhance the efficiency of renewals, amendments, and terminations.

Automating contract actions and having them contained within one platform speeds up the whole process, which saves a tremendous amount of time over a year. What could your agencies do with all those saved hours? What difference could it make for your mission?

Watch the fireside chat, Simplifying Government Procurement, which explores the best path for state and local organizations looking to streamline procurement processes.