Public Procurement in 2020 — Are You On Track? Part III

In Monday’s post, we begin our discussion of Hansen’s predictions for public procurement in 2020, which were offered as a 5-part series last month in response to the 5 predictions of Bob Lohfeld (of Lohfeld Consulting) that were published in Washington Technology in early July. We started with a discussion of the Government Market and then moved onto a discussion of Workforce. Today, we will discuss Process.

In his piece, in a nutshell, Lohfeld prognosticated that:

(1) There will be a strong connection between technology and workflow to enforce process rigour and increase efficiency. (2) Business development, capture management, and proposal development processes will become more agile and refined to fit shorter procurement life cycles. (3) We will place renewed emphasis on process maturity. (4) Process optimization will be based on actual measurements taken across multiple capture and proposal efforts and will use statistical analysis as the basis for process change. (5) Companies will implement business development, capture management and proposal development into an integrated workflow management system that serves as the corporate repository to manage all new business pursuits.

Whazitsayin? SI has to agree with Hansen when he said I quite frankly did not understand what Lohfeld’s actual process prediction entailed. Let’s take it statement by statement. (1) There’s already a strong connection between technology and workflow because most departments blindly do whatever the system tells them. This doesn’t increase efficiency. (2) If lifecycles shorten, either steps will be eliminated, but since this is government, more likely this means more e-Solutions will be adopted to collect and “analyze” information faster. But this doesn’t do much to enforce process rigour. (3) This is the same spiel that every consulting organization cycles through every 5 to 10 years. (4) This is likely since more and more systems are taking measurements and presenting metrics and benchmarks in (dashboard) reports so any process optimization that does occur will be able to use these measurements, but this does’t answer the question of how much process optimization will occur. (5) The private sector will likely integrate these systems, but there’s no guarantee that the public sector will upgrade right away. The private sector takes long enough to upgrade a SAP or Oracle or similar ERP implementation (because of the massive investment they want to amortize over 10+ years). The public sector often takes even longer. I don’t see much in the way of prediction here.

Plus, as Hansen points out, one has to remember that organizations in both the public and private sectors spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to adapt their operations to an ideal workflow that in reality created more work re: cycles on the front lines than it did the expected efficiencies, and most of them failed. So just making a stronger connection between technology and workflow isn’t going to fix things. If the process is bad, automating it just makes it worse. Process will only improve when people realize that it has to adapt to the way in which [they] actually work (versus creating an illusionary ideal) and begin to create an utilize an adaptive model that maximizes the organization’s ability to customize workflow processes leveraging modularity. But since this will likely require the application of SaaS-based technologies within the framework of a (semi) private hub, this could take a while. Thus, at least in SIs view, we should not expect massive process improvement in 2020 in your average government organization. Just the same old processes automated and tweaked to run a little faster.