Joining me for the 60 minute segment was Mark Amtower and Colin Cram, both of whom have a breadth and depth of experience in terms of public sector procurement that is often difficult to come by in a single instance let alone as part of a panel discussion.
There were of course many insightful, frank and objective insights provided during the broadcast, which aired live on the PI Window on Business on Blog Talk Radio yesterday at 10:30 AM. For those who were unable to tune in to the live broadcast not to worry, as the on-demand version is conveniently available through the following link; Ten Big Ideas: Virginia Shifts the Paradigm in Government Procurement Policy.
The key outcome of the discussion can be summed up in a simple observation in which Cram started the ball rolling when he said that while Virginia should be applauded for this undertaking, the Commonwealth needs to zero in on what they want to accomplish through a supplier diversity initiative.
Specifically, and along similar lines to the current House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s efforts to determine how UK Government procurement can be leveraged to drive innovation, Cram indicated that Virginia has to be clearer in identifying what they want to achieve with this exercise. The objectives according to the UK-based 30 plus year veteran of the public sector, could be the stimulation of innovation and the adjunct benefits that this would deliver or, perhaps boosting the economy during what is for most governments at the state and municipal level a challenging economic time.
It was at this point that Amtower, who by way of experience and geographic locale understands the Virginian landscape quite well, suggested that while innovation is sexy as it deals with the high technology sector, given the Commonwealth’s demographics it would make more sense to focus on leveraging procurement to boost the economy. His reasoning is that while Virginia has strong pockets of high tech capabilities that could increase revenue in the sector from within the Commonwealth itself, as well as winning business from other parts of the country and perhaps even the world, the vast majority of SWaM-type businesses are not high tech. Therefore Amtower concluded, it would make more sense to focus on helping the majority of businesses to generate revenue, than pay too much attention to a dynamic but limited high tech sector.
The next logical step following this train of thought according to Amtower, is to then determine what the current level of business is within the targeted sector(s) re what level of revenue is being directed toward SWaM vendors now (the “are doing” factor), and then based on an assessment of the market capability what level of business can be directed toward these same vendors (the “can be doing” factor).
This was a key point in the conversation as Cram then interjected that to be able to quantify the gap between the current volume of business being done with SWaM suppliers and ultimately what could be done needs to be established right out of the gate for the initiative to have any real or meaningful substance. He then went on to suggest that obtaining this information may not be as daunting a task as one may think.
In the end, the panel felt that out of the Ten Big Ideas, points 4 (Install and empower a Director of Supplier Diversity) and 8 (Utilize a standard tracking, reporting and goal-setting process), were what one would call the meat and potato ideas. This assessment was based on the fact that these points will ultimately have a legacy impact that would transform the Advisory Board’s work from a whatever happened to that 2011 report regrading supplier diversity irrelevance, to a foundational cornerstone upon which the future direction of Virginia’s procurement policies and practices can be built.
Once again, I would suggest that you tune in to the on-demand broadcast (Ten Big Ideas: Virginia Shifts the Paradigm in Government Procurement Policy), as it will provide you with a more comprehensive breakdown of what was discussed and why the opinions provided by our expert panel can be used as a solid reference point for any government entity looking to supplier diversity as a means of delivering greater value to the public they serve.
Note: Judy Bradt was not able to join us however, I am looking forward to receiving her input regarding the Virginia Report, and will share it with you right here on the Procurement Insights Blog as soon as it becomes available.