Passage of the $550 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021 includes initiatives to grow America’s economy and create jobs by addressing critical infrastructure, safety, and sustainability programs. With the Infrastructure Act, lawmakers approved $550 billion in new federal funding for America’s roads and bridges, water systems, resilience, internet, and more. This is the most significant piece of spending legislation since the G.I. Bill was passed in 1944.
However, the successful multi-year rollout of the law will hinge on our ability to allocate capital to where it’s needed most and ensure projects are delivered. Notably, procurement leaders who are responsible for putting that money into action say significant challenges lie ahead. In fact, 90% of public procurement budget owners at the state and local level reported that the process of obtaining federal funds was complex and time-consuming, and 61% lacked the resources to properly allocate funds, according to an independent survey commissioned by Ivalua.
Effectively deploying capital may seem like an unexpected challenge two years into the rollout, but data shows that it’s been a problem for a while, and legacy systems are a key part of the issue. Our ability to modernize and achieve efficiencies will be an important part of the ultimate success of this initiative.
The Need to Invest in Updated Digital Processes
Procurement and supplier partners face some serious obstacles in putting the Infrastructure Act funds to use because most legacy procurement systems cannot handle the scale of these new investments. This has been an issue lurking in the background for some time, but the scale of the IIJA spending initiative heightened the issue.
Efficient execution of an initiative of this size will require ramping up more digitized processes to scale available resources that are already strained. This evolution includes automating routine tasks, increasing data analysis, introducing self-service solutions, and leveraging cloud applications.
Public procurement teams should invest in such systems that allow them to digitize more processes for increased efficiency and transparency. For example, conducting solicitations in a digital platform, increasing competition, and improving the cycle time for bid evaluation, scoring, and award.
Automation is particularly important to reduce the time spent on routine manual tasks and instead focus human attention and creativity on innovations to improve procurement outcomes. Automation can also help increase quality control and ensure compliance with applicable regulations and policies, preserving the public trust that funds are being used appropriately.
Having a comprehensive understanding of the rules for public procurement will help teams better manage their workflows by allowing them to identify areas for improvement. But managing ongoing regulatory compliance requires a dynamic set of solutions. Outdated systems that cannot integrate data to expose insights or are too inflexible to keep up with changes in the law will inevitably lead to audit risks, costly penalties, and a loss of public trust.
It is also vital to develop a data insight strategy to gain visibility into procurement operations. By gathering data on process performance, costs associated with each task, and other metrics related to the team’s overall performance, leaders can make more informed decisions about how to improve their processes and collaboration across departments.
Streamlining communications is another essential area to reduce costly delays and identify new opportunities. A centralized collaboration system with real-time updates for all involved parties can ensure that no stakeholder misses any information that is crucial for a project’s success. For instance, if expired documents are found, rapid messaging allows the responsible parties to quickly respond and return to compliance before any setbacks occur.
Taking a Unified Approach
Public procurement teams today face immense pressures to modernize their technology systems for improved efficiency while still adhering to strict guidelines for regulatory compliance. Streamlining public procurement is no easy feat—it requires buy-in from stakeholders across multiple departments and a commitment from leadership to invest in the necessary resources for technology and training.
Yet by understanding regulatory requirements and adopting strategies for scalability, automation, collaboration, and data insights, any team can build efficient workflows that prioritize compliance while meeting the unique needs of its customers. Those who get it right will greatly increase their chances of benefiting from Infrastructure Act funding. This includes improving organizations’ ability to compete for discretionary awards under the IIJA that will be awarded to projects that have positive social impacts. Digitizing processes, exposing data insights, and analyzing complex award scenarios could provide a considerable advantage over other organizations or entities that are also competing for these discretionary funds.
- Overcoming Legacy Technologies to Maximize Government Investments - October 12, 2023