As this year comes to its final month, most organizations are looking for ways to approach the fiscal challenges coming in 2023. In addition, we are now operating under the “new normal” of remote working, and the coming year(s) will require modernized solutions to manage day-to-day operations. In a recent report by Owl Labs, 55% of respondents say they work more hours remotely than at the physical office. Contracts for products and services need to be re-evaluated, use levels measured, and management procedures amended to reflect workforce realities. But with the current workforce challenges, especially in the public sector, who has time?

All organizations that employ any form of remote work options continue to face procurement and operational questions stemming from internal need assessments and supplier contract options. For example, with less staff in the office, do you need the same level of office supplies? Has your mobile device usage increased stemming from cell phones, tablets, and hotspot utilization? Even things like shredding, waste services, custodian supplies have been somewhat historically static from a use/volume perspective; but with less people in the office, these agreements/processes need to be reassessed to reflect the revised usage levels established by remote workforce migration.

What are some of the best practice solutions? What have other organizations done?

Here are a couple of examples where public sector organizations are taking a proactive approach and have found cost reduction, management efficiencies, contact transparency, and service level enhancements.

Office Printing: Past needs don’t predict the future. In the County of Orange, they have 1000 copiers and over 5000 printers. With less staff in the office “hitting the print button,” the County is working to rightsize the equipment fleet, adjust service contracts to reflect the new print volume, and reduce expenses. The County expects that hard costs will be lowered. They estimated 7 figures of savings through this review process, while also achieving significant soft cost management savings.

Telecommunications: Poway Unified School District commissioned a telecommunications cost analysis and found significant cost reduction that has resulted in over $350,000 savings to date.

“There are so many savings opportunities available to government agencies–both on the historical side through bill auditing, but also going forward with contract options,” said Todd Main, ProcureAmerica Vice President of Government Services. “You can’t turn on the television without seeing a new program being offered by the carriers. Even LeBron James is now a pitch man for AT&T and is helping with telecommunications cost reduction.”

Organizations should also be looking at how things have changed in regards to their Accounts Payable processes. Not only have they seen disruptions in their daily operations, so have those vendors sending the invoices. With reduced staff levels and the many changes organizations are facing, now is a good time to look for misdirected or duplicate vendor payments, missed rebates or billing errors. These small things can continue to add up if not found in a timely manner.

Looking back provides significant fiscal opportunity. ProcureAmerica recently conducted a bill audit for the University of California, San Diego and recovered over $1.5 Million dollars from SDG&E for overcharges. They also recently provided a review for Riverside County and identified $300,000 in billing errors for one single department.

“Just this month, our team conducted a bill audit for a midsized California city that also had its own transportation department,” Main said. “In that bill audit, we found that there was a sales tax exemption they were entitled to for all the retrofitting on their city buses related to ADA compliance. This one aspect of the audit will result in a significant refund.”

Enterprise bill audits are a comprehensive “wide net” approach that should be part of each organization’s “annual fiscal care” process–like going to the doctor for your annual physical. There are also targeted reviews that should be examined in a much more granular manner. For this coming year, ProcureAmerica is recommending several areas that have been impacted in a material way by remote working: Telecommunications (voice, data, mobile), Print Management (copiers and printers), and Waste Services (solid and specialty waste). Each of these expense categories has been dramatically impacted by remote working and provides a significant opportunity to be “rightsized” and managed.

To summarize: 1) Look back and have a 2022 bill audit conducted. It’s simple, impactful, and prudent. 2) Review service and supply levels because they have changed. 3) As time and staff resources are in limited supply, find an outsourcing solution that is an expert in the field. 4) Evolve: pre-pandemic practices are, in many ways, extinct.