Skip to main content

Crossing boundaries in Public Procurement

Anonymous (not verified)
Published on: 10/09/2010 Document Archived

The goal of the Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Centre (PIANOo), a department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, is to increase the professionalism of public procurement in the Netherlands. As there are too many governmental organisations to handle individually, PIANOo positioned itself as a knowledge network, in which the community is the bearer of knowledge. PIANOo facilitates the process of making relevant  knowledge visible and available to everybody by using social media. The advantages are up-to-date knowledge, trustworthy answers, substantial reduction in costs and multilateral contacts instead of unilateral.

After five years of continuous improvements, PIANOo now has a proven concept of knowledge management that is transferable to other governmental organisations. A substantial contributor to the success of PIANOo has been the democratisation on knowledge on public procurement through crossing the boundaries between practice, science, law and policy, but also between countries and between governments and markets.

The aim of the Public Procurement Expertise Centre (PIANOo) is to increase the professionalism of public procurement in the Netherlands, including the use of innovative methods of procurement.

The name PIANOo is a Dutch acronym for: Professional and Innovative Awarding, Network for Government Purchasers. PIANOo is a department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and was founded in 2005 as an indirect result of the widespread fraud in the construction sector. Part of the conclusion of the Parliamentary Inquiry into this fraud was that awarding authorities were partly to blame; their way of awarding contracts was far from professional. Therefore, the goal of PIANOo is to help awarding authorities to improve performance. PIANOo consists of about 20 people (fte).

As there are too many organizations to make an individual approach possible e.g. by setting up a helpdesk of experts, PIANOo needed to define another strategy. Knowledge management turned out to be the solution.

Governments are typically considered knowledge-intensive organisations, and will become increasingly more so in the future Knowledge management is the key to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of governments. While traditional knowledge management systems are applied to structured knowledge, Web 2.0 applications are particularly effective in enabling the sharing of informal and tacit knowledge internally.

 The use of Web 2.0 and the use of social media was exactly what PIANOo needed to deal with the problem of a small organisation with many clients.

The use of social media is closely related to communities of practice, which are characterised by their history of mutual engagement, negotiation of the initiative and objectives and the development of a shared repertoire. These informal structures require specific managerial efforts to develop them and to integrate them into the organization so that their full power can be leveraged. In this way, the wisdom of crowds can be fully unlocked.

Democratising expertise is an important component of guaranteeing this process. Only if the ivory tower is opened up and experts come to the agora is it  possible to find out what elements they provide to formulate and implement policy decisions, and how these elements are actually used. Establishing a community of practice based on a knowledge democracy involves investments in building social capital.

PIANOo exists for five years now. In these years, PIANOo crossed different boundaries resulting in a successful network fully equipped to fulfil its task of professionalising public procurement. These boundaries exist between different organisations, between ICT tools, between practice, science, law and policy, between amateurs and experts, between countries and between government and market.

Description of target users and groups

PIANOo's target groups are all contacting authorities that have to comply with the European rules for public procurement. These are municipalities, provinces, water boards, ministries, police, schools, universities and health care.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards

Lessons learnt

PIANOo, originally founded as a knowledge centre for public procurement, positioned itself as a community of practice, in which the community is the bearer of knowledge and in which PIANOo, facilitates the process of making that knowledge visible and available to everybody.

The example of PIANOo shows that Internet, and especially Web 2.0 and the use of social media, offers huge possibilities for governmental organisations who believe in interactive information sharing and collaboration. PIANOo has successfully crossed different boundaries in order to pursue its task to professionalise public procurement.

Key ingredients are the focus on the needs of one's members, the creation of an environment where members trust each other and have the right attitude to share their knowledge, and investing a lot of time and energy in the community.

 For PIANOo is was surprising to notice that what was learned in practice as the results of five years of continuous improvements was afterwards confirmed by literature.

Furthermore, Web 2.0 is not about ICT. ICT only provides new possibilities to work together, but it must never be the ultimate goal. For PIANOo, Web 2.0 is all about people who want to interact and to collaborate, who want to meet each other in real life, who want to read on paper and who want to work on their computer, whenever and wherever they choose. PIANOo is convinced that this way of working is applicable to every organisation.

Scope: Cross-border, Local (city or municipality), National