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The Power of Innovative Procurement to Drive a Competitive Advantage 

In recent years, public procurement teams have been challenged to get creative with how and where they source goods and services. Supply chain disruption, economic instability, and skyrocketing demand on procurement departments have all been drivers of innovative procurement. But, according to Darren Tompkins, that’s nothing new. Procurement has always been an arena where innovative ideas are essential for success. 

We recently sat down with the Manager of Purchasing for the City of Kelowna, Darren Tompkins, to hear valuable insights from 20 years of experience in K-12 and municipal purchasing. He discussed what creativity in public procurement looks like and why it doesn’t have to come at the cost of compliance. 

Why Innovative Procurement is Seeing Widespread Adoption 

Naturally, the public procurement function tends to focus on driving efficiency and standardization to manage the many projects, stakeholders, and vendors being juggled at any given time. Falling back on traditional procurement processes isn’t always optimal, though. Darren states that, “there are times where, if you’re trying to fit that square peg into a round hole, you need to be a little more creative.” 

That’s where thinking outside the box becomes essential—because there will always be procurement challenges that demand new, novel solutions. So, what do those new approaches look like? Here are four big ideas to integrate innovative procurement into your process:

1. Rethink Repetitive Tasks

In certain purchasing areas, there’s a much higher transaction volume and that “takes up effort and time.” In those instances, “you really want to get your buying team using their critical thinking skills and adding value to everything they touch.” 

Darren suggests automating as many low-value transactional activities as possible to drive cost savings, such as using P-Cards or standing orders with certain suppliers for low-value repetitive spend. “Then really get your buyers immersed in the files they’re working on so they can build long-term agreements with suppliers. This way, suppliers will be able to provide what they’re looking for and buyers can leverage their expertise.”

2. Tailor the Supplier Selection Process to Your Project

Few procurements are suited to a one-size-fits-all selection process. Although it’s often the go-to approach, using a price-based tender isn’t always ideal—for example, when buying professional services. “When you’re buying knowledge, when you’re buying expertise, you really want to engage with the service provider that can provide the best outcomes for you,” explains Darren. 

Using a quality-based, rather than price-based, approach in those instances allows procurement teams to make sure they’re always finding the best supplier for the specific goals they need to achieve. Ultimately, it is the best way to use taxpayer dollars efficiently.

3. Explore Creative Methods—Within Limits

It’s no secret that public agencies are bound to strict purchasing regulations. Encouraging creativity on your team doesn’t mean throwing out the rule book and transparency and compliance remain paramount. Darren shares, “Within a procurement, you can do a lot of things, but you need to say what you’re going to do ahead of time, and it needs to be in your document.” 

Procuring innovation within limits—and with full transparency—isn’t just important for process improvement, it’s also critical for your team’s career development. Take low-risk opportunities to experiment with pilot projects as a way to try new approaches and get everyone in the agency on board.  

4. Reframe Your RFPs

Another area where teams can develop more innovative procurement is the RFP itself. “At times, we don’t necessarily have the internal expertise to describe what we want to buy or what we need to address a problem. And so, in an RFP, I encourage our teams to think about presenting a problem rather than presenting the solution,” shares Darren. 

“Let the marketplace, which are the experts in this area present a solution to you, present what you’d like to see as an outcome, or present the problem and ask them for answers. That’s really where an RFP can produce innovative solutions.” 

Implement Innovative Procurement in Your Agency Today 

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, it’s easy to feel like procurement teams are “just another cog in the wheel”. However, with innovation, procurement offers a unique opportunity for public sector teams to make a real difference in their organization and the communities they serve. 

As Darren states, “if you’re not feeling as though you’re making a difference right now, find a space where you can be an influencer and a champion.”  

By embracing new practices, innovative technologies, and proven strategies, procurement professionals can become influencers and champions of creating change within their team. This not only allows them to have a direct impact on the success and collaboration within their organizations, but also enables them to advocate for important issues and make positive changes in their community through matters of sustainability and social responsibility. 

Request a demo to explore how emerging technologies can transform your agency today! 


Learn how to find the right solutions partner to enhance your ERP, save time and resources, and ultimately deliver a greater impact on the communities you serve.

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Learn how to find the right solutions partner to enhance your ERP, save time and resources, and ultimately deliver a greater impact on the communities you serve.

Download eBook