Whether registering land and property or receiving healthcare, the citizens of New Brunswick have definitely crossed paths with Service New Brunswick (SNB), a crown corporation that provides almost all direct public services on behalf of the government. SNB’s regular clientele includes provincial and federal government agencies, municipalities, lawyers, surveyors, appraisers, realtors, financial institutions, utilities, engineers, consultants and more – this means the organization’s procurement team have a massive, yet vital, task on their hands.
Renée Laforest, Vice President of the Finance and Strategic Procurement division, highlights how SNB’s procurement function isn’t just about improving cost efficiency: it’s also about making meaningful change. “Service New Brunswick does strategic procurement for most of the government entities in the entire province including the health sector,” she explains. “Five or six years ago there was an emphasis on cost, and the strategic procurement division was asked to find substantial savings for the government. Therefore, not unlike a lot of procurement teams, we shifted towards a category management strategy.” In essence, this involves clustering similar items that the company wants to buy under a single cost-effective deal. “We have achieved a significant amount of savings through this new strategy,” Laforest enthuses.
However, in the most recent chapters of the firm’s procurement journey, it has shifted towards value-based procurement. This can perhaps be best seen within the healthcare division, notes Laforest: “We’re starting to have more conversations about value-based procurement, whereby the results are based on outcomes. For example, when we purchase insulin pumps for diabetes clients, we’ll carefully look at the needs of our clients and ensure we meet their demands rather than automatically opting for the cheapest pump.” SNB has implemented a range of innovative procurement strategies but it seems, in a lot of cases, you can’t underestimate the power of conversation and understanding the product or service. “We really consider our clients’ needs and requirements when procuring goods and services for them,” Laforest notes. “It’s important that we have these in-depth conversations, particularly when it comes to services. If you’re buying a service you may have more complex needs and requirements, so this dialogue is critical.”
Procurement has proven to be at the bedrock of SNB’s operations, ensuring that the organization can deliver the vital government services needed to keep the region ticking along. The function has a lasting impact on the people who provide government services, as well as an indirect impact on those who receive them. Yet, notably, the reverberations of SNB’s innovative procurement strategy can be felt by New Brunswick suppliers too. “We’re trying to support New Brunswick suppliers to become prosperous so they can successfully bid to the government,” Laforest explains. “We’re trying to explain to them when we can give preference to a local supplier versus having an open tender, and why we need to do that to support our New Brunswick companies.” On top of this, SNB has shown a flair for supplier relationship management (SRM) through in-depth conversations, outreach programs and more. One such company that has worked closely with SNB is IMP solutions, who were successful in winning a number of technology supply contracts with the Government of New Brunswick. “Currently, they hold four separate multi-year contracts of supply for technology goods, including data centre infrastructure and client computing equipment,” explains Laforest. “All of these contracts were awarded through competitive open tenders and support SNB service delivery to three main parts of government: core government departments, education, healthcare.”
Any business leader will tell you that the procurement sector has been a stomping ground for innovation lately and this hasn’t gone amiss at SNB. Laforest describes how the organization is in the midst of implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. “We are investing in a new eERP solution for all of government, so we need to replace the HR management, financial, and procurement and supply chain systems,” she explains. This is further compounded by the group’s strategic sourcing platform used for health sector procurements, Bonfire. “Vendors use it to submit their proposals and we do all our evaluations within the tool. It’s all automated and all our stakeholders have found it beneficial.”
Looking at the wider procurement landscape, Laforest has seen an uptake in innovative procurement practices. This helps to encourage greater collaboration with vendors and promotes new ways of doing things. “I think the days of listing endless requirements for procurement processes are in the past,” she proposes. “In some instances, you may know that the business needs to buy a blue chair that’s a particular height, for example, and that’s easy to do. But when you’re not quite certain what the market has to offer then it’s important to have a process where procurement can be more open. For instance, you may say ‘I need a system to help me track health inspections’ and outline your requirements so vendors could bring forward unique suggestions. It’s fair and transparent and I think it brings about more successful outcomes.”
SNB’s procurement success is far from coincidental. The crown corporation has put its weight behind a multi-year procurement integration and it is already reaping the benefits for both the government and its citizens. In the upcoming years, Laforest asserts that SNB will continue to spearhead leading procurement practices so that stakeholders can see the function is not a hindrance but rather, an enabler. “I want to really add value for our clients so that they don’t see procurement as a roadblock but rather see it as a value-adding function,” she affirms.