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Encouraging collaborative thinking in major sourcing projects can be made easier

E-evaluation solutions or source selection solutions deliver to contracting organizations an underlying mechanism to support collaborative decision making and review in strategic, higher value, higher risk, sourcing projects. Inevitably the higher the project’s value and the higher the risk involved more people are needed to support the decision process since no one individual will have the knowledge, the authority and perhaps, the willingness to make such major decisions alone. 

These acquisitions usually involve decisions about spending significant amounts of an organization’s budget and thus expose the organization to significant new risks. It is far too risky for an organization not to exploit its collective intelligence to make the best decision. The need to show that a decision was made in an objective and reasonable way requires a suitable number of parties to contribute to the decision making process.

Collective Intelligence in the Defense Sector

In the defense sector this is usually essential since it is answerable to the public. Typical strategic sourcing decision processes will involve at least 10 people, although a possible scenario can have between 50 to 100 people and sometimes there are collaborations with upward of 100 persons! A typical strategic sourcing project is not a one-time decision process but actually a multi-stage decision and review process, typically going through a qualification, selection (evaluation), pre-contract negotiation and various phased and milestone review process, post-contract.  Each stage usually requires different individuals’ input. Ultimately, an organization should successfully collaborate in its decision processes by enabling the organization to tap into its collective intelligence and make better decisions. As the saying goes, ‘two heads are better than one’ and you could say, ‘100 heads are definitely better than one’ when considering a complex strategic sourcing decision. 

Why collective decisions fail ….. 

However, making collective decisions is not easy to do because committees often fall into endless rounds of arguing until the decisions they reach are so delayed and so compromised that they are not optimal. Alternatively, a committee can become dominated by its stronger willed members with some of the group ignored and the best decision again not reached because intelligence is lost.

And how to succeed….

 It is possible to eliminate some of these issues by ensuring that the group has a diversity of knowledge and experience and good decision making and review processes.  However, we believe groups need an easier method to capture each person’s intelligence and input independently.  There also needs to be a capability to combine those inputs into an optimal, justifiable decision.  In order for the process to work in practice, an underlying information and process solution is needed.   

Using a web-based bid evaluation tool

By using a web based bid evaluation tool, inputs could be collected electronically using a web based form and the results combined automatically into a value model.  A value model is the key to combining the independent viewpoints in an unbiased and unrestrictive way.  This could then be represented in reports giving overall views that are justified and backed up with auditable evidence.   Additional usability could be gained by utilizing a web based hosted e-evaluation solution which enables a non-disruptive environment in which work can be done where it is convenient and contributors do not have to gather round a meeting table every other week.   This reduced disruption in both time and location would encourage people to want to contribute because it gives them control over their working practices. For the organization this approach also saves lost travel time and costs which can be a significant overhead in a project particularly in the US. Significant time savings using e-evaluation could also be achieved by allowing people to work asynchronously via the web since with this approach there is no longer a need to synchronize individual schedules in order to gather inputs. It has been documented that this approach can save up to 80% of the time to reach a decision because it’s less disruptive to the contributors involved and it becomes easier to persuade people to invest their time in the process. The more people involved, the more intelligence has been applied to the problem and therefore the better the quality of the result. 

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