e-procurement in Wales – a discovery

5 August 2021

We’re working with the National Procurement Service to do a discovery about the e-procurement tools used across the Welsh public sector, in order to understand the experiences of those using these systems, and what kind of system they would like to use. The project is being supported by PUBLIC.

We’re about a month in and so far, we’ve conducted interviews with more than 50 people who use e-procurement tools in the Welsh public sector. There has been no shortage of people who want to share their views on procurement, and we’ve found all the insights fascinating. Thank you to all involved so far!

Why are we doing this work?

We’re supporting the National Procurement Service to ensure that the tools and systems used for procurement in Wales are modern, easy-to-use and accessible, and that they remain fit-for-purpose in light of on-going changes to procurement regulations.

Who is this for?

Our work is relevant for all users of e-procurement tools, whether they work for the Welsh Government, local councils, housing associations, the NHS, or the third sector. We’re also talking to suppliers who sell goods and services into the public sector. Our hope is that future improvements to the tools will make procurement easier, not just for those already engaged in the process, but also for untapped supplier groups across Wales who don’t currently participate in public procurement.

So far, the users we’ve engaged with fall into five main groups:

  1. Commercial and procurement teams
  2. Service area teams (especially contract managers)
  3. Commercial policy and strategy teams
  4. Data and analytics teams
  5. Suppliers and third sector organisations

What have we been doing?

Over the past month we’ve interviewed over 50 users of eProcurement tools across the Welsh public sector, speaking to a diverse group of specialists working in a wide variety of settings and across a wide range of procurement categories. We’ve interviewed people working in one-person procurement teams, as well as people who form part of larger centralised procurement departments. Some interviewees have been relatively new to procurement, while others have dedicated their entire career to it.

Through our interviews, we’ve learned how these users engage with e-procurement tools in their day-to-day roles. We’ve modelled these user journeys from beginning to end: from the moment a procurement request hits their desk, to supplier sourcing, evaluation and contract award. As part of this work, we’ve tried to understand where the current tools are falling short of requirements, and are complicating rather than simplifying procurement.

We’ve also talked with suppliers to better understand their experiences using e-procurement tools to sell into the public sector. This includes looking closely at the supplier user journey, focusing on the most steps of the process such as signing up for the systems, through to more complex tasks like drafting and submitting a bid.

What have we learned so far?

We’ve captured loads of feedback which we’ll be sharing with the community over the following weeks.

Here are some of our main takeaways:

  1. The current e-procurement landscape is fragmented, with most public sector bodies regularly using at least two (if not three or four) different tools to conduct their procurement work. The tools they are using are poorly integrated.
  2. Many features offered through the current systems (especially eTenderWales) are not used widely, with users complaining that certain processes are too complicated and are more easily carried out offline. Certain functions such as evaluation and contract management are conducted entirely off-system by most of those interviewed, despite being available modules on core systems.

What are the next steps?

Throughout August, we will be:

How can you get involved?

We appreciate your continued engagement!

If you’re a supplier, we invite you to participate in a short survey (also available in Welsh) to help us better understand your needs.

If you’re a buyer, you can send your thoughts or comments via info@digitalpublicservices.gov.wales and you can also request to participate in one of our upcoming focus groups.

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