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What is eProcurement: Definition and Best Practices

Modern eProcurement technology helps state and local governments improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance the transparency of their acquisitions while staying compliant with complex regulations.

State and local governments bear the responsibility of delivering public services, maintaining critical infrastructure like roads, and responding to the diverse needs of their communities. For these agencies to thrive, they need a smooth procurement process for acquiring goods and services. 

But that’s easier said than done. Government procurement is a complex process requiring large volumes of documents and a wide range of stakeholders. Many organizations use a cobbled-together assortment of homegrown and off-the-shelf procurement applications, and manual processes abound. Without a central repository, employees spend hours combing through procurement contracts to find the information they’re looking for. And if they’re audited, it can take the agency several months to retrieve the required data. Developing a strong eProcurement process on a system that’s designed with the unique needs of government agencies in mind can help.

eProcurement definition.

What is eProcurement and why is it important? 

Short for "electronic procurement," eProcurement is a business process that involves the use of digital technology and online platforms to streamline and manage the acquisition of goods and services. It encompasses the entire procurement lifecycle, from requisitioning and sourcing to purchasing, invoicing, and payment.

eProcurement software can streamline and modernize procurement processes to more effectively meet the demands of constituents by reducing costs, enhancing transparency, and ensuring compliance with complex regulations. It enables governments to make more informed purchasing decisions, promote fair competition among suppliers, and manage their budgets effectively while increasing accountability and transparency in procurement activities. 

[ Learn more about Appian procurement solutions for federal, state, and local government. ]

Top procurement challenges.

Managing procurements in state and local government using manual, paper-based processes is challenging for several reasons:

  • Complex regulations. Government procurement is subject to numerous complex regulations and compliance requirements. Managing these intricacies manually increases the risk of errors, omissions, and non-compliance.

  • Administrative burden. Paper-based processes involve extensive paperwork in generating requisitions, bids, and contracts. They are time-consuming to create, process, and track. This administrative burden slows down the procurement cycle.

  • Limited transparency. Manual processes lack real-time visibility into procurement activities, making it difficult to track progress, expenditures, and regulatory compliance.

  • Limited collaboration. Collaboration among departments, agencies, and personnel involved in procurement can be hindered when relying on physical documents that are difficult to share.

  • Risk of errors. Manual data entry and document handling are prone to data inaccuracies, misplaced documents, and miscalculations, which can lead to financial and legal repercussions.

  • Inefficiency. Paper-based workflows are inherently slower and less efficient than automated processes. Delays in approvals, document routing, and communication can lead to longer procurement cycles. 

  • Difficult vendor management. Managing vendor relationships, performance evaluations, and compliance with contract terms becomes challenging without digital tools that provide centralized information and tracking.

  • Audit and reporting challenges. Generating reports and conducting audits for accountability and transparency purposes is labor-intensive and time-consuming when data is scattered across paper documents and multiple systems.

  • Lack of strategic insights. Manual processes often lack the data analytics capabilities needed to make informed decisions, optimize procurement strategies, and identify cost-saving opportunities.

  • Inflexibility. Manual systems are less adaptable to changing procurement needs, making it difficult to incorporate modern practices like electronic sourcing, online bidding, and supplier collaboration.

For these reasons, state and local governments increasingly seek to replace manual, paper-based procurement processes with more modern, effective eProcurement systems.

Why your eProcurement system may be in need of modernization.

The use of eProcurement systems in state and local government is becoming more prevalent as agencies aim to streamline business processes and increase efficiency. 

But the adequacy of these systems varies between different governments and jurisdictions. While some agencies may have fully integrated platforms, others may be in the process of adopting or expanding their digital procurement capabilities. Many lower quality eProcurement tools still require users to perform manual processes that can be automated. For example, they may not have unified applications or a central repository. Instead, they may rely on templates created outside the system and data stored in shared drives—so contract data is still difficult to find and track. This wastes time, lengthens the procurement cycle, and potentially introduces errors.

An eProcurement system that handles the entire procurement lifecycle will streamline the procurement process by providing a centralized platform for all stages, from requisition to contract closeout. This increases efficiency by reducing manual intervention, data duplication, and the risk of errors and enabling seamless collaboration among stakeholders.

A modern, comprehensive eProcurement solution accelerates procurement cycles and enhances transparency for optimal resource allocation and supplier relationship management.

What to look for in eProcurement software.

eProcurement software that covers the entire procurement lifecycle without the need to leave the system is crucial for saving time, enhancing transparency, and providing real-time visibility into the process. This consolidation streamlines workflow, reduces errors, promotes compliance, and facilitates data-driven decisions, ultimately leading to more efficient and effective procurement management.

[ Choose an eProcurement system that handles the entire procurement lifecycle, from requisition to contract closeout. ]

A good eProcurement system should include the following capabilities:

  • A robust workflow tool that adheres to business rules and regulations and incorporates approvals and other decision points to capture every step of the procurement process.

  • Modern automation technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA), that free staff to focus on value-added activities.

  • Wizard-driven processes and questionnaires to guide you through setting up each phase of a procurement (requirement, solicitation, evaluation, etc.) in an intuitive way.

  • Integration with Microsoft Office 365 for seamless communication that ties back to your email account.

  • Tools for managing vendor and supplier relationships, including supplier performance tracking, vendor registration, and prequalification.

  • A complete document repository, including all contract documentation and template libraries. 

  • Transparency and accessibility by all stakeholders that enables them to find information quickly.

  • An audit trail of all activity, from solicitation to contract closeout, to demonstrate compliance.

[ Watch the webcast, Simplifying Government Procurement, to explore the best path for state and local organizations looking to streamline procurement processes. ]

So what is eProcurement? It’s an automated system that can help solve many procurement process challenges by improving efficiency, reducing errors, ensuring compliance, enhancing transparency, and enabling data-driven decision-making. 

Getting procurement right is crucial for state and local government agencies because it directly impacts the delivery of public services and the use of taxpayer funds. A great eProcurement system streamlines the procurement lifecycle, making it easier to manage complex regulations, allocate budgets effectively, and maintain accountability, leading to better service delivery and more responsible fiscal stewardship.