A new vision for doing business with government - Canadian Government Executive
Procurement
May 7, 2012

A new vision for doing business with government

In 2005, an Ontario government-sponsored task force generated a number of recommendations to make it easier for small and medium businesses to do business with the provincial government. More important, it cast a spotlight on procurement and the ongoing need to modernize procurement processes.  

Four years later, a whole different spotlight was cast on public sector procurement when the use of non-competitive procurement processes captured headlines, significantly influencing procurement in the Ontario Public Service (OPS).

Our response was Vision 2012, a strategic plan that produced large-scale change by streamlining processes to support us and our customers, creating new policies and introducing technology to enable our business, supporting people through new skills development, and bringing our vendor community along with us.  

A continuous improvement program was launched in the Supply Chain Management Division of Ontario Shared Services based on Six Sigma process improvement methodologies. Today, the division has 13 staff with their Green Belt certification and 15 more will be certified this spring. Another 25 staff are certified White Belts, creating a highly trained team that together lead a systematic approach to reviewing OPS-wide procurement processes to introduce efficiencies and drive out waste. 

A significant reorganization of the division created centres of excellence that mapped to our core businesses – advisory services, controllership and policy, and enterprise procurement – all supported by a new branch mandated to implement modernization strategies in support of these core businesses. 

One of our more popular modernization initiatives was the creation of Supply Chain Management University. Now in its fourth year, SCMU delivers a curriculum to procurement staff that includes project and contract management as well as current procurement trends and for three years has provided OPS executives with a highly rated introduction to procurement called “Surviving the Procurement Jungle.” 

Policy changes were introduced to streamline procurement approval authorities and create the Supply Chain Leadership Council. Comprised of senior program and IT executives from across government, mostly top procurement ministries, the council has been given authority to approve procurements valued at up to $10 million. This change reduced the procurement approval process while maintaining a high degree of controllership of major procurement decisions.

Supply Chain Management Division also started reaching out to its customers more than ever before. A Procurement Network was created providing a forum for senior ministry buyers to bring forward issues and to collaborate on solutions. The assistant deputy minister is a member of the Information Technology Executive Leadership Council, thus recognizing the volume, value and complexity of IT procurement, and also provides regular updates to the government’s Chief Administrative Officers Forum.

Engaging our vendor community was another hallmark of Vision 2012. Borrowing an idea from our colleagues in Nova Scotia, Ontario introduced Supply Ontario in 2009 to bring together vendors and buyers from all levels of government in a reverse trade show. Ontario has also partnered with the federal government and many local governments to conduct “how to do business with the Ontario government” seminars.  

Vendors interested in doing business can also visit www.doingbusiness.gov.on.ca, and find our Three-Year Vendor of Record Outlook. This document tells the vendor community approximately when we will be in the marketplace to refresh or establish a Vendor of Record (VOR) arrangement. A tool to aggregate spend across the OPS, Ontario does more than $700 million in business annually through approximately 65 VOR arrangements.

Vendors were also asked to provide input on a number of specific strategies through White Papers and Requests for Information. These requests have helped Ontario introduce standardized contract terms and conditions and implement significant changes in how we acquire consulting services. 

All of these changes have left us wanting to do more. Last fall we started planning for our new strategic plan, Vision 2015.  We know that cost-effective technology solutions that drive consistency and support business analytics will be a cornerstone of the plan. A focus on performance measurement and benchmarking will also provide ongoing insights for further improvement.  

We are looking for continued process payoffs from our Six Sigma investment and will be introducing an e-learning strategy. To help us focus the plan, we spent the fall talking to our own staff as well as our customers. This winter invitations were sent to more than 30 vendor associations asking them to tell us what is important to them. 

Together, this input will focus our efforts for the next four years, proving once again that it is always an exciting time to be a procurement professional in the public sector.

 

Marian Macdonald is assistant deputy minister, Supply Chain Management Division, Ontario Shared Services.

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