04 March 2004 | David Arminas
Capturing the benefits of an e-procurement system is one on the hardest elements of analysing whether the investment has been worthwhile for local authorities.
Caroline Stanger, senior e-government adviser at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), told delegates to the eWorld conference in London last week that authorities have been good at making business cases for e-procurement.
Nearly 100 of the 388 councils in England are running an e-procurement project, spurred on by the government's aim of all councils to be e-enabled by 2005.
But the crunch for heads of procurement comes when their chief executive asks how much time and money has been saved because they have installed and used e-procurement.
Some councils may need to reorganise their management structure to get the benefits of e-procurement, said Stanger, who is national projects programme manager for all of the ODPM's 24 national projects, of which one is the National e-Procurement Project (NePP).
"If you look at the business case for e-procurement, you could be talking about one or two people's working time saved by using it," she said. "But actually grabbing that in reality and turning it into useable time for something else to be done is difficult. That saved time could be fragmented over several days or weeks and over several people."
The answer often lies in reorganising working responsibilities to take advantage of the system's benefits, she said.
Stanger stressed that large authorities such as metropolitan boroughs have not been any better than smaller district councils at reorganising and capturing e-procurement benefits.
"Some authorities have this nailed down, while some need to learn more how to do it. The idea of the NePP is to learn from those that have got it right."
A major report by consultancy Deloitte into the use of e-procurement in local government is due for publication at the Local e-Gov National e-Procurement Project conference on 23 March in London.