Resource backfill, technology and process change drive state procurement improvements

Many institutions in the public sector are faced with improving the efficiency and responsiveness of their services and operations to better serve stakeholders and the public. High turnover and lengthy recruiting cycles are creating both a loss of tribal knowledge and an influx of inexperienced resources, leading to significant delays in day-to-day operations.

Our client, a state procurement group, was experiencing just that situation, this team was faced with a critical backlog of hundreds of procurement requests that caused risks for expiration and gaps in service due to inconsistent procurement procedures and poor compliance with state procurement laws and policies. Contracts were retained in four different locations, ranging from outdated systems to paper contracts housed within the department. This department had also failed a procurement management review conducted by the state’s department of general services with 38 specific procedural violations cited.

The procurement team’s leadership were looking to improve efficiency as they addressed the need to quickly reduce the department’s contract backlog challenges while processing hundreds of aging procurement requests that, left too long, might result in government services delivery interruptions.

Client Snapshot:


A state procurement department was facing high employee turnover and needed support to improve department efficiency and address contract request backlogs.

Client Situation

This department had a backlog of more than 250 contract requests and failed a procurement management review with 38 procedural violations. It needed to quickly resolve identified issues.

Work Performed

Protiviti introduced new technologies for greater accountability and collaboration, improved database metadata for better reporting and introduced a contract assignment process to reduce backlogs. We also provided training on new purchasing processes, including improved authorisation procedures.


Reduced average time to complete contracts by 51%; reduced backlog of 250+ aging contract requests by 66%

Developing recommendation to quickly meet goals

This client’s leaders’ objectives included:

  • Drive process improvements
  • Improve how the department was using technology to automate processes
  • Increase contract visibility and reporting
  • Strengthen prioritisation and workload management
  • Improve policy and statutory compliance

To accomplish those goals, Protiviti developed several immediate recommendations:

  • Introduced Procurement as a Service, bringing in additional resources to address the backlog of aging contract requests. This was done in partnership with Protiviti’s parent company Robert Half International.
  • Formed a team including leaders and staff from procurement, accounts payable, contracts administration and information technology departments, as well as from departments requesting the procurement of goods, services and grants to provide expertise about current practices. This opened the door to future collaboration.
  • Worked with the state team to review existing procedures. Identified a lack of available tools and templates.
  • Analysed available tools, including SAP Ariba and Adobe Cloud (E-signature) and introduced them into day-to-day business processes.
  • Developed templates and checklists to standardise processes and facilitate compliance, all of which enabled the team to quickly deliver consistent, high-quality work.
  • Implemented a Power BI Dashboard to monitor performance and to identify opportunities for training and improvement of the team.
  • Supported the client’s efforts to consolidate all contracts into one database.
  • Remediated processes to address the 38 items identified in the procurement management report
  • Trained the procurement department and other stakeholders in updated processes and tools.

Process improvements drive efficiencies

Throughout the project, the teams used a Protiviti-developed Power BI dashboard that provided visibility into their performance, including insight into the number of outstanding contracts and how end-users were performing when submitting contract requests. This Power BI data allowed the client to pinpoint individuals and procurement methods that may have been underperforming. Analysing data gave leaders the data needed to help staff members who needed mentoring to improve their process efficiencies. That data also spotted methods, such as contract modifications, that were taking longer than necessary, identifying opportunities for process improvements. These insights improved leadership’s view of how effectively work was progressing.

Protiviti also evaluated what tools were available to support the procurement process. For example, while technology for electronic signatures was already available, this paper-free approach had not been universally adopted. Specialists within the team ensured all relevant users could access the technology and were trained in its use.

With improved data and better tools identified, the client was better able to manage contracts that were 90 to 120 days from renewal, preventing them from aging out.

Along with supporting widespread adoption of electronic signatures, the client also implemented a practice of delegated authority. By allowing various levels of management to authorise purchase amounts commensurate with their responsibilities, commissioners no longer had to approve every purchase. With this change, purchases below $500 thousand could be authorised by a director instead of by a commissioner; purchases below $250 thousand could be authorised by a manager instead of by a director.

The confidence to move forward

By bringing in Procurement as a Service personnel to assist with the backlog of 250 aging contract requests, the department was able to recruit permanent resources to ensure it could keep current with requests going forward.

By creating a standard procurement procedure accompanied by tools like checklists and templates, the team helped personnel to gain operational efficiency while aligning with state procurement laws and policies.

By training procurement personnel along with the administrative departments with which they interacted — as well as with the teams who originated procurement requests — resources grew more confident in their knowledge of compliance procedures. By training different teams together, this client improved collaboration by fostering understanding among the groups and resolved process gaps by aligning goals across multiple functional departments. These advantages resulted in a 51 percent reduction in the average time it took for the procurement department to complete a contract.

This project left the client better prepared to efficiently manage its work and accelerate onboarding of new team members.