Targeted training ensures purchase requests are error-free
Even though the Monterey County (Calif.) Contracts/Purchasing department is lean-staffed, it continues to be responsive to its internal customers, says Michael R. Derr, the county’s Contracts/Purchasing Officer.
Derr says his department has very limited staffing with only seven team members that support the needs of 27 county departments and special districts. “In order for our department to be responsive to the needs of our customers, we have to ensure that we have an open communication process, where the entire team touches base each day as needed to provide status reports as well as to request assistance, if needed, from another team member.”
The county has taken steps to meet customers’ needs, Derr says. “We’ve created response time lines for the processing of our different types of procurement documents submitted by our customers. As like any agency, the resources allocated to our division have been tragically inadequate for years.”
Derr says his management team has learned to accept the concept that with tough times come tough decisions. “The one thing that we had to do was to re-think our approach to how we conduct business, and how should we be doing business in order to reduce some of the duplicated and ever-increasing manual tasks.” Derr says his department leaders asked, “How could we, and what could we automate with the implementation of technology?” He says his leaders discovered one big looming issue, which was that the department’s customers, both internal and external, wanted access. “That includes easy access, 24 hours a day to information and support. So, how do we do that? We were able to make the necessary changes through the implementation and usage of technology.”
Derr’s department upgraded its current ERP System and is currently installing a new cloud-based online RFP system; they have also just recently implemented an online sourcing program. “The implementation of these new systems has provided my team with the capability of improving not only our level of customer service with regards to response time, but has also helped with the reduction of product costs by having a greater capability of sourcing product and service needs through a variety of sources,” Derr tells Co-Op Solutions.
Derr says his managers took a hard look at the level and type of work product that was being submitted by the department’s internal and external customers, and identified that one of the main areas of drag on its current resources was that staffers were spending more time trying to either correct procurement mistakes after the fact, or simply having to reject submitted work product because of its incompleteness, inaccuracy and/or poor work quality. “We addressed our internal issues through the development of an internal training program. We created our very own Contracts & Purchasing Academy, where we train our internal customers on the importance of submitting a better work product to improve the procurement process for faster product or service delivery.”
The academy focuses on the mechanics and arts of contract creation and contract life-cycle management. It provides county staff with the processes, methods, tools and skills for best contracts and purchasing practice.
Derr believes more procurement departments are using cooperative purchasing agreements to get work done. “Agencies are using more cooperatives than ever before, due to the sheer number of them that are now available. Our organization uses a number of cooperatives as well as Job Order Contracting for our facilities.”
Derr also serves as president of the National Procurement Institute (NPI). The NPI is a non-profit organization that serves public procurement professionals internationally. He urges public procurement professionals to attend the 2019 NPI annual conference in Las Vegas, Nev., October 6 through 9. “The event is a great way for public procurement professionals to increase and refresh their knowledge and skill sets.”
At the conference, attendees can learn more about the NPI’s Achievement of Excellence in Procurement award (AEP). The AEP program is designed to recognize organizational excellence in public procurement.
Derr says public procurement officials can gain insights about the AEP Award. “As long as you are an NPI member, you have access to a library of resources that are the best practices submitted by other public procurement organizations that have successfully submitted and achieved the acknowledgement of the AEP Award.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]