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:
- Commercial and procurement teams
- Service area teams (especially contract managers)
- Commercial policy and strategy teams
- Data and analytics teams
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- lack of sufﬁcient training is frequently cited as a reason for low use of e-procurement tools, with many saying they primarily learned to use the tools ‘on the job’.
- users would like to get more mileage from the data in the systems that they use, but often ﬁnd that extracting meaningful data from their systems is either time-consuming or impossible with the current products.
- most suppliers rely on notiﬁcations from Sell2Wales to identify opportunities to sell to the public sector, but those notiﬁcations are not always relevant to their business. Meanwhile, many suppliers ﬁnd the tender search functionality offered by current tools cumbersome and inefﬁcient.
- variation in the way different public bodies use e-Procurement tools creates complexity for suppliers. Suppliers are frustrated by the need to use multiple tools and the additional time spent re-entering information on every tender increases their costs and makes them think twice about future participation in public procurement.
What are the next steps?
Throughout August, we will be:
- running focus groups and conducting user testing of the tools currently funded by the Welsh Government: Sell2Wales, eTenderWales, Atamis, and Basware
- reporting back on best practices in public and private e-procurement
- producing a roadmap for the future of Welsh e-procurement with recommendations for next steps
How can you get involved?
We appreciate your continued engagement!
If you’re a buyer, you can send your thoughts or comments via email@example.com and you can also request to participate in one of our upcoming focus groups.