Generating new ideas

Managed services, e-bidding developments among the topics at 2016 SCMA National Conference

August 22, 2016
by Michael Power
Image: Dorothy Jakovina

Image: Dorothy Jakovina

From the August 2016 print edition

The 2016 SCMA National Conference generated not only new ideas, but also healthy attendance as delegates gathered in Niagara Falls to learn about procurement and supply chain from a wide array of speakers. The event drew delegates from across the country for three days of education seminars, keynotes speakers and, of course, mingling and networking with fellow supply chain professionals.

Among the education seminars was From Best Price to Best Practices: Evolving Procurement Needs for Managed Services—Alan Spence, national manager, managed document services sales and strategic alliances at RICOH Canada Inc., led the session. The seminar focused on the fact that as managed services evolve to encompass products and services traditionally purchased separately, procurement’s focus must shift from best price to overall value. This change affects both the process and structure of what the sourcing team does to acquire managed services.

Using managed services involves handing over a function to a third-party provider to run on an organization’s behalf, Spence said. Recently, the nature of the RFP has evolved, with new techniques and methodologies surfacing that can help companies handle managed services more effectively. The traditional approach to the RFP process has been to produce something that everyone can respond to that’s specific in scope, requirements, service levels and so on. Then, an organization will compare the cost of each bidder. And while the decision has always seemed to come down to price, Spence questioned whether the process risked stifling innovation and creativity by putting them in the same box. “These are challenges that you have to be able to address in the short period of an RFP while you’re trying to make the right decision for your organization,” Spence said.

Spence advised the audience to seek a proven approach to managed services. For example, managed print requires lots of parts to deliver the entire operation effectively, so ensure the right people are in place. Adequate change resources must be in place and an organization must ensure they have the proper governance resources, people and processes to make it happen. A supplier who says they don’t need any resources to affect changes should be treated with caution by a buying organization, Spence said.

It’s also important to establish a baseline before services are provided in order to show later that the managed services procured actually provided results, he noted. As well, Spence advised audience members to look for key things from a provider, including:

  • Current state analysis and future state design;
  • Service transition;
  • Project management;
  • Organizational change management;
  • Governance processes;
  • Continuous improvement; and
  • Innovation.

Using these as tests can help to prove that a provider can do what it says it can do, Spence said.

An e-bidding perspective
Also among the conference’s seminars was E-Bidding: A 360-Degree Perspective, a session focusing on the challenges and rewards of switching from paper-based to electronic bidding processes. Gord Sears, manager of procurement services for the Town of Newmarket, noted that his organization had transitioned to e-bidding because it saves time and money. Newmarket began researching e-bidding about three-and-a-half years ago, he said, and that the process has worked well for the municipality.

In setting up its e-bidding capabilities, Newmarket first consulted with experts before executing three mock bids. The town sent out a survey afterwards to collect the vendors’ perspectives—a step that Sears noted was key to improving the process. And while Newmarket hadn’t yet launched total e-bidding for digital bonds, that will likely become a reality early next year.

And in the case of system failure, power outage or other calamity, Newmarket has a clause allowing the town to extend the close by however many hours it takes to resolve the crisis.

“It’s easy to hit ‘extend,’” he said. “It’s better safe than sorry but we’ve never had to do that.”

Leslie Williamson, purchasing, Town of Milton, who also participated in the panel, noted the town decided on a staggered start while implementing its e-bidding process. The town began by accepting e-bids for IT but quickly decided to implement full electronic bid capabilities. Williamson agreed that performing mock bids was imperative to a smooth launch, and the system is highly logical, making it relatively easy for even non-tech-savvy vendors to use it with ease.

Overall, the 2016 SCMA National Conference provided a wide array of topics to suit the diverse range of delegates, truly living up to its tagline of “Generating New Ideas”.
For more on the SCMA National Conference, visit their website at