The benefits of dedicated e-Procurement solutions

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Sharing is easy – at least in the beginning. If you share a house with friends, it’s common sense to share the bills, share the responsibility for furnishing the place, and share the day to day tasks of running the house. But after a while, we outgrow this mode.

We want to channel surf when we want, let the cat sleep indoors if we want and move the couch around – all without having to ask. We want the flexibility of choice enabled by replacing group-think with a committee of one: ourselves.

The same can be said to apply to a typical organisation, especially within the procurement function. Sure, there is the ease in opting for a multi-organisational, shared e-Procurement solution. You can slowly dip your feet into new waters along with others and get used to a new way of doing things, all the while supported by those who are more experienced. Eventually, though, the desire for individuality bubbles to the surface and you want the freedom of moving the couch.

The New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) in New Zealand is one such organisation that outgrew the shared lifestyle and branched out on its own.

New Plymouth District Council: branching out with individual procurement portal
The NPDC services the largest district in the Taranaki region, New Zealand. Providing services to approximately 74,000 constituents, the NPDC undertakes a large number of procurement projects per month – covering everything from roads and construction, managing its extensive parks network and drilling water wells.

The NPDC has a long history with TenderLink, having provided input into TenderLink’s e-Procurement portal proto-types as far back as 2005. Through this collaborative working relationship, the NPDC quickly came to appreciate the fundamental benefits of e-Procurement: through making the manual procurement process digital, probity requirements are more easily met, plus countless hours and costs are saved through consistent, automated and purpose-built processes.

Denise Cooper, Administration Officer, Infrastructure Support at the NPDC, believes procurement processes have changed immensely since the council began using TenderLink’s e-Procurement solution, and for the better.

“The pre-TenderLink days required a lot of manual leg-work, including dealing with a lot of paper,” she said. “The TenderLink system is easy to use and takes all of the time-consuming paperwork out of it. The project developers draft up the documents and then we load them into the system. We don’t see a single piece of paper, and there’s no double or triple handling of documents.”

However, as is the case with all technology, things change. The NPDC’s early use of TenderLink was through the collaborative LG-Tenders portal, shared by nearly 50 local councils around New Zealand.
This arrangement worked well for the better part of 10 years and for many councils, it still does. But a shared portal brings compromise, with the “one size fits all” approach necessarily restricting the full range of functionality on offer.

Over time, the NPDC found that their procurement requirements had matured, and the functional trade-offs of a shared portal arrangement became more telling. It met its increased functionality needs through shifting to its own portal, thus providing them with a nuanced e-Procurement solution tailored to their individual needs.

“Moving to an individual portal opens up the full breadth of system functionality,” said Leandro Fossá, TenderLink’s New Zealand-based Business Development Manager. “The NPDC – along with the Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin and Rangitikei councils, for that matter – now has its own branded identity and its own digital marketplace. Importantly, they now have greater choices about how they want to customise their portal to align with their specific procurement processes.

“Procurement professionals recognise instantly how options like pre-qualifying suppliers, pre-approving tenders prior to release, loading specific supplier support resources and setting default e-tenderbox closing times all combine to offer a pretty powerful bundle of functionality improvements.

“The other interesting trend we are noting with the individual portal option is that once a council commits to its own portal, they tend to use it more. With an individual solution, suppliers register for free and so councils tend to attract more suppliers. This gives councils a sizeable and engaged supplier base, allowing them to conduct private/closed tendering, all within the portal – instead of using risk-prone and ad-hoc systems such as spreadsheets and emails. Not surprisingly, when councils opt for their own portal, we are also seeing increased usage of our evaluation toolset.”

As was the case in 2005 when the NPDC saw the benefits of a shared portal, this time around they have been equally quick to recognise the additional benefits accruing from having its own portal.

As Cooper notes: “If we need to send out a notice to prospective bidders, the system automatically issues the notice to all the companies that have downloaded documents. We don’t need a long list of emails anymore and it’s saved us countless hours. I can go into the system at any stage and it will show me a list of the companies who have downloaded documents. It will also provide details about the number of people who have viewed specific opportunities.

“The automation of such processes enables much greater adherence to probity requirements. Every company logging into the system leaves a digital footprint, outlining the time and date they logged into our portal, what they viewed and downloaded, when they began their submission uploads – everything.”
But Cooper has found the major benefits to the council having its own NPDC-branded portal have been an enhanced market presence and more supplier engagement, resulting in increased competition for procurement projects. This delivers cost savings and ensures a return on investment as well as the best possible outcome for the NPDC – and by extension, its ratepayers.

“More supplier companies are coming on board and registering on our portal now, because it’s free for them to do so,” she said. “We are getting more submissions per tender, and having our own portal better advertises us to suppliers as well.

“TenderLink is tweaking the portal functionality all the time, providing extra bits and pieces, all of which are available to us now that we have our own portal. It just keeps getting better. The system is simple to use and TenderLink’s support during our move to a branded portal has been excellent.”

Click here to view the PDF for the local government case study:

24.03.15 Tenderlink pdf screenshot

To read other case studies, please visit the TenderLink website.

* Would you like to learn more about the latest developments in procurement technology? Advice, analysis and education on technology and how it can improve procurement performance will all be on the agenda at ProcureTECH NZ, 11th Nov, Auckland. Click here for more details.

About TenderLink
With over 300,000 registered system users, TenderLink is one of the largest web-based e-Procurement systems in the Southern Hemisphere.

Currently more than 415 leading government, public and private sector organisations use TenderLink’s purpose-built web-based system to reduce their procurement administration costs, engage with a large, categorised supplier audience and increase the pace of their procurement cycles. This is achieved within a standardised and externally audited system providing the highest levels of transparency, security and probity. For more information, please visit www.tenderlink.com.

24.3.15 TenderLink Infographic

About Author

Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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