Public Sector Procurement

Public Sector Procurement

How can procurement be “open” and support innovation?

The City of Guelph’s information technology (IT) department asked the GuelphLab to support the design of alternative procurement processes that can unlock innovative technology solutions for the City and have the potential to create business development opportunities for companies working in “Civic Tech.”


Government procurement represents 12% of Canada’s GDP and is potentially a powerful policy tool for governments to wield. All levels of government rely on outside companies to provide a vast array of goods and services. At the City of Guelph, most purchases over $20,000 are completed through a public “procurement” process. Current policy (local By-Laws, as well as Provincial, Federal and International policies, laws and agreements) and established practices in procurement are driven by principles like fairness, competition and confidentiality. Opportunities for citizens to participate in the process are limited, however, and City staff face significant challenges when attempting to procure innovative solutions.

Individual departments within the City of Guelph will need to purchase a range of IT products and services in the next 5 years. This includes software contracts, hardware and infrastructure, hosted solutions (e.g., CRM platforms), websites and apps (inc. social media tools). The City is also making data available with the potential to create entirely novel services, business models etc.


City Staff:

  • 5 City staff drawn from IT, Procurement, Economic Development and Open Guelph.
  • Staff have participated in key informant interviews, design workshops, and are driving the development of prototypes.


  • 5 businesses, all IT / digital technology, with some small start-ups
  • 2 more established tech companies.
  • Businesses have participated in key informant interviews and design workshops.

Business Incubators:

  • 3 people working at organizations local to Guelph who support entrepreneurship and business development.
  • They have participated in key informant interviews, design workshops.


  • Workshops 
  • Process mapping
  • Dilemmas (trade-offs)
  • Simple, Complicated, Complex


The Guelph Lab is working with the City of Guelph on two IT projects.

Guelph Lab generated insights about the ways in which City staff interact with and select potential vendors, and particularly how information about past experiences (positive and negative) with vendors is stored. City staff also have a better understanding of the experience of potential vendors who have not worked with the City before. City staff are using these insights to test features of a new CRM (A “CRM” system is a “customer relationship management” system) system being deployed by the City in 2016.

While some of the features of this CRM are well known, its deployment creates an opportunity to develop new ways for the City and its citizens to interact that were previously unimaginable. The GuelphLab is working with City Staff to identify potential challenges faced by the City that could benefit from novel, innovative technology solutions. We will then design procurement processes that enable outside stakeholders – businesses and interested citizens – to develop the solutions.

Project Partner(s): 
City of Guelph