Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Public Sector Procurement with Private Sector Agility and Innovation 

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By Jill Button, President & CEO, ProcurePro Consulting  


Public sector procurement in Canada has traditionally operated within a framework of stringent regulations and procedures aimed at ensuring transparency, accountability, and the responsible use of taxpayer funds. While these principles are crucial for maintaining public trust and integrity, they can sometimes lead to bureaucratic processes that hinder agility and innovation. In contrast, the private sector is known for its flexibility, agility, and ability to capture innovation quickly to drive business growth. In this article I explore, based upon my 35 plus years of servicing both sectors, the top differences between public sector and private sector procurement best practices in Canada and provide my recommendations for public sector procurement to adopt the advantages of private sector practices while still adhering to best practices. 

  1. Regulatory Environment:

Public sector procurement in Canada, is governed by specific laws, policies, and procedures at every level of government, with the aim to ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability in the use of taxpayer funds. 

Private sector, while compliance with relevant laws and regulations is essential, the focus is primarily on achieving strategic objectives and gaining a competitive edge. 

To bridge this gap, public sector organizations should focus more on a proactive, strategic approach to procurement while streamlining regulatory processes by implementing digital procurement platforms that automate routine tasks, such as tendering, contract management, and supplier evaluation. By focusing on strategic objectives, the best overall solution considering adherence to requirements, quality then cost; while leveraging technology, procurement professionals can improve outcomes while reducing administrative burdens.  

  1. Transparency and Accountability:

In the Public Sector, transparency and accountability are paramount in public sector procurement to ensure that procurement processes are open to and withstand public scrutiny and that taxpayer funds are used efficiently and ethically. 

In the Private Sector, while transparency and accountability are also valued, the focus is primarily on achieving strategic business objectives and delivering value to shareholders. 

 Public sector organizations can enhance transparency by leveraging digital tools to provide stakeholders with real-time access to procurement data, including contract awards, spending patterns, and supplier performance. By promoting greater transparency, public sector organizations can build trust with citizens and stakeholders while improving decision-making processes. 

  1. Competitive Bidding Process:

Public sector procurement usually requires a formal competitive bidding process, such as a tender or request for proposal (RFP), to ensure fair competition and value for money. 

In the private sector, competitive bidding may also be utilized, but the process is generally more flexible and tailored to the specific needs and priorities of the organization. 

Public sector organizations can adopt agile procurement methodologies, such as category management and preferred supplier agreements, can facilitate stronger, more strategic relationships enabling quicker and more flexible procurement processes. These approaches enable public sector entities to streamline and respond rapidly to changing market conditions and capture innovation from a broader range of suppliers. 

  1. Risk Management and Compliance:

Public sector procurement places a strong emphasis on risk management and compliance with regulatory requirements to mitigate legal and reputational risks. 

While risk management and compliance are also important in the private sector, the focus is often more on managing commercial and operational risks to achieve business objectives and drive growth. 

Public sector procurement should adopt a risk-based approach to procurement decision-making, focusing on the most critical areas of risk while allowing for greater flexibility in less critical areas. By balancing regulatory compliance with risk management principles, public sector entities can achieve greater agility without compromising accountability. 

  1. Long-Term Strategic Relationships vs. Short-Term Tactical Engagement:

Public sector procurement decisions are often driven by short-term tactical requirements, such as lowest cost and unit savings  

In the private sector, decisions are more often based on innovation, strategic objectives, market competitiveness and long-term trusted relationships.  

 Public sector organizations can foster collaboration and innovation by engaging with suppliers as strategic partners rather than transactional vendors. By involving suppliers early in the procurement process and encouraging open dialogue, public sector entities can tap into the innovative capabilities of the private sector while achieving long-term value for taxpayers. 

  1. Flexibility and Innovation:

Public sector procurement has a reputation for being more rigid and bureaucratic, with a focus on lowest cost, compliance and reputational risk mitigation. 

Private sector procurement is characterized by greater flexibility and a willingness to embrace innovation and change. 

Public sector organizations can cultivate a culture of innovation by empowering procurement professionals to think strategically, creatively, take calculated risks, and explore new approaches to procurement. By incentivizing innovation and rewarding successful initiatives, public sector entities can foster an environment that embraces change and drives continuous improvement. 


By adopting the advantages of private sector procurement practices, such as agility, innovation, strategic advantage and flexibility, public sector organizations in Canada can enhance their procurement processes while still adhering to best practices. By implementing digital systems, streamlining regulatory processes, promoting agile procurement approaches, embracing risk-based decision-making, fostering collaboration cultivating a culture of innovation, public sector entities can bridge the gap between public and private sector procurement and deliver greater value to taxpayers and stakeholders. 

Need help improving your procurement policies, processes and systems?  We can help. Contact me for a free no obligation exploratory discussion at 

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