(Part I) Jaime Schorr, Chief Procurement Officer of Maine: COVID-19

April 13, 2020 National Association of State Procurement Officials Season 1 Episode 2
(Part I) Jaime Schorr, Chief Procurement Officer of Maine: COVID-19
(Part I) Jaime Schorr, Chief Procurement Officer of Maine: COVID-19
Apr 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
National Association of State Procurement Officials

Jaime Schorr, Chief Procurement Officer for the state of Maine, discusses her experience in procurement, how the supply chain is reacting to the worldwide pandemic, and how her staff is adapting to working from home. Make sure to email us a [email protected]!

NASPO Members email [email protected] for assistance

Show Notes Transcript

Jaime Schorr, Chief Procurement Officer for the state of Maine, discusses her experience in procurement, how the supply chain is reacting to the worldwide pandemic, and how her staff is adapting to working from home. Make sure to email us a [email protected]!

NASPO Members email [email protected] for assistance

Kevin Minor:   0:03
Welcome back to the NASPO Pulse. Or if this is your first time joining us. Welcome. This the podcast where we're monitoring issues and state procurement. We've got our finger on the pulse. I'm your host, Kevin Minor, and I am Are you ready for this? The media production project manager for the National Association of State Procurement Officials. Save yourself some time and just call us NASPO. boy, am I happy to be here today? We're talking with Jaime Schorr, Chief Procurement Officer for the state of Maine. She's on the NASPO Board of Directors. She is also the research and innovation team champion, so we're gonna jump right into that. But first, how's everyone doing? Email me, let me know. [email protected] I want to hear from you. Seriously, We're still experiencing the COVID-19 Pandemic and our state procurement offices are working overtime. We've got some Resource is for you for the public visit, that's a link that I'll make sure to put in the description for you. Those resources are meant to assist you with your response to COVID-19 Pandemic. They were collected from NASPO as well as some other external sources. And it's all in one convenient spot for you. If you are a NASPO member, we have resource is on the network, such as lessons learned, call notes, supplier vetting checklists, supplier research, and a list of suppliers by product. If you need access to that email [email protected] I'm gonna put that in the link at the bio for you too. Okay, enough shop. Let's take the pulse. Take the pulse. It's kind of cheesy.  

Kevin Minor:   1:56
Jaime, thank you for joining us on the pulse today. How are you,

Jaime Schorr:   1:59
Good Kevin, how are you?

Kevin Minor:   2:01
I'm doing well. We are practicing our social distancing in this time, not only because of COVID-19 but because I am in Lexington, Kentucky, and Jaime is in the great state of Maine, which she is the Chief Procurement Officer of Is that correct, Jaime?

Jaime Schorr:   2:20
That is correct, Kevin.

Kevin Minor:   2:21
Jaime, can you just tell me a little bit about your experience in procurement?

Jaime Schorr:   2:26
Yeah. So, Kevin, I've been in private procurement and public procurement for about 10 years. I actually started out at a local health care system, working on medical contracts for physicians and working on business development from a sourcing perspective. Yeah,  and then I came to the great state of Maine, State of Maine government. And as the Chief Procurement Officer now within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services for the state. I'm responsible for purchasing all services, supplies, materials, and equipment required by state government. And I think the really interesting note that I would put out there is I didn't imagine I would ever be a CPO. I didn't start out my thought at 10 years old saying, I want to be a CPO. I fell into it very naturally. I'm a lawyer by training. I had a great amount of criminal justice background, and I was a criminal defense attorney in Virginia, and when I realized that it just wasn't the right path for me, I embraced the world of business and naturally, what I found is that within business, procurement is sort of the unsung hero, and I really appreciated the idea of purchasing supplies and services for the greater good. So that's kind of my history and how I felt into procurement.

Kevin Minor:   3:55
More so now more than ever, though I think you know, especially right now during this pandemic, a lot of people are more interested in where their stuff is coming from, right and probably more aware than they ever have been before about where their stuff is coming from.

Jaime Schorr:   4:14
So the concern is not only where the stuff is coming from, the concern is. Where's the stuff right? It's not even are we getting it from China, are we getting it from overseas? It's Can we even get it? Can we get it produced in a different way? And so the questions that are being asked are really: How is the supply chain reacting to the worldwide pandemic, and what are we doing as procurement officials to influence the supply chain?

Kevin Minor:   4:45
Right, well influence, but also heed the call, so to speak, right? What are you guys doing? So I mean, you know, let's get it. I have some other things I want to discuss with you, but let's get into that because it's it truly is the most prevalent discussion globally right now, how our procurement officials not only in your state but do you see in conversations with other purchasing professionals. How are you guys answering that call?

Jaime Schorr:   5:13
We're learning a lot about PPE very quickly. Let's just start there

Kevin Minor:   5:18
has become common vernacular in the past couple of days.

Jaime Schorr:   5:22
Yeah, two weeks ago. I'm not sure that the majority of the CPO across the country knew about all the intricacies of PPE and what goes into purchasing it. Of course, now we are not only reacting to the crisis at hand and ensuring that our medical providers and our public health officials have what they need. We're also trying to support folks in our communities and in our states that don't have enough resources at hand to protect themselves or their families. So as procurement officers, we are looking at a broad scope. Um, in the state of Maine, I think we're in a unique position along with a few other states where we've got a do some tire changeovers. We've got to start thinking spring and summer and moving away from winter. And that time is right now. But we can't afford are normal logistics and operations to that effort. We're still trying to buy hand sanitizer. We're trying to buy N 95 masks were collaborating with other see pose across the country were collaborating with NASPO and other organizations were looking at suppliers to say, Hey, what's out there? How do we work together to make sure that we can respond and adequately provide not only the supplies that are needed but the services that are needed so that we can shut down this pandemic as soon as possible?

Kevin Minor:   6:54
Jaime, what's something that you've learned in just in the past week dealing with this influx of information? Because I know, you know, even in NASPO here, we're fielding questions to membership as quickly as we can and pushing back out the information. What's something that you've learned? It could be, um, something about PPE. Or it can be maybe a new in a way, an innovative way of procuring something or sourcing something. What's something you've learned?

Jaime Schorr:   7:21
I have. But I will call it learn, but I will also expand that to say observed. I've observed that the business marketplace is incredibly dynamic. We have businesses that were humming along smoothly, their bottom line cash on hand. They're doing great. You know, all their books are in order there. They're looking ahead for the next couple of years and then all of a sudden, bam like a free train. Their doors are closed, right? And these businesses that maybe have 3 to 30 days cash on hand, and I'm talking small businesses, less than 50 employees. They have very quickly jumped into responding to the need. So it's heartwarming to see that local businesses can transition that quickly. But they're also they're moving away from panic mode from their doors being closed into not opportunistic but responsiveness. And that is so appreciative, especially in a small state like Maine. We rely on our small local businesses to support us. Um, the and these businesses are they're producing exactly what we need, and I just I'm so appreciative of the businesses that are around us in every single state, supporting state and local governments. It's been truly heartwarming to see that

Kevin Minor:   8:53
Well, and not only the response and the efficiency of the response, but the responsibility because they're operating and they're operating responsibly, right? Under the guidelines of the CDC and experts, you know, curbside is the new thing, right? It's the new drive through, um you know have having businesses deliver to your door. Right? And those are all good things. Those keeping businesses open, they keep some responsible. So just that adaptiveness really surprises me.

Jaime Schorr:   9:32
Yeah, I think you're exactly right. And I think taking that a step farther if we're gonna talk about adaptive nous, how about the entire workforce in state and local governments now, working from behind a screen just like you and I are doing right now? Yeah, absolutely. It's just I mean, and I can tell you from the procurement staff in the state of Maine, I can't say enough good things about the group of 21 people that I have. And I will tell you that most of the folks in my division are older. They would, they know that. I say that I Yeah, I've got some folks that have been with this division for 30 years, and this is not their norm. But when push comes to shove and they have to do it, not only did they do it, they did it without complaining. And now they're embracing it. And they're starting to see the benefit of what technology can do for the profession of procurement. It's amazing, we're much more productive now. And you know, we're able to use things such a zoom or Microsoft teams or Skype or some of the other things we can have those quick, three minute interactions that say, How do we do this? What's happening with this? And then we're done. Admittedly, I do miss the nice work luncheons and the social aspect of going to work, but I appreciate that we've been able to adapt as a profession as well as we have.

Kevin Minor:   10:51
I think it has, unfortunately, forced people to embrace this technology. But the technology was already out there, so the fact that we have more people using it, hopefully, that can spark creativity. So you said that your staff is doing really well right with this, with adapting to this on online and even said that you're maybe a little bit more productive. Can you speak to that just a little bit more for me? I think that's really interesting point.

Jaime Schorr:   11:18
Yeah, when we first started working remotely, almost two weeks ago, my senior management team within procurement services would check in with our staff every morning or every afternoon we were there, we were available. We were answering questions. It was the way that we transitioned staff into the remote workforce. And I would say within 24 hours we had numerous emails and numerous comments from our staff saying, Wow, why didn't we do this 10 years ago? This is terrific. I'm getting my questions answered. I'm not getting stopped in the hallway and deferred, you know, being asked a number of other questions. The phone seemed to ring a little bit less because our customers and agencies are utilizing technology at their fingertips to look for answers like our website or some of our other guidance documents. They are agencies, and our customers stopped to think before they pick up an old fashioned cell phone, right would actually make a telephone call. They look on the website because that's what's easy to them. Right now, it's not. Hey, let's go see Susie down the hall. Susie's information is already online, but if I can't find exactly what I'm looking for, I can dial Susie up in about two seconds and it's it's been wonderful,

Kevin Minor:   12:37
Right right, well, and you know, as much as we all love small talk, and and it is an important part of office life, right? This kind of, um, reduces that. And do you think that this is something just in your opinion, do you think that this is something that will continue even after this pandemic is over?  

Jaime Schorr:   13:00

Kevin Minor:   13:01
This virtual style connection that we're doing,

Jaime Schorr:   13:05
I very much so. Think that this is the new normal for at least the immediate future. And this will go on to be a hybrid of normal in like that were longer term, future. It is not feasible for our entire workforce to work remotely. But it is absolutely feasible for our workforce to be split so that when it makes sense, they can work from home or when it makes sense, they could be remote. It cuts out driving time. It cuts out delayed meetings. I I absolutely think this is a new hybrid of the of the long term normal.

Kevin Minor:   13:43
A hybrid workforce. I like that. Yeah, like that. Okay, well, so switching on because there's all kinds of information out there about Coronavirus, and I'm sure people get tired of hearing about it if if if nothing for a little bit will relieve you from that and we'll talk about a much more interesting topic. Um so, Jamie, you know... 

Kevin Minor:   14:05
That was part one of my interview with Jamie Shore. Isn't she great? So much energy can really hear her passion for this stuff. If you like that, and I know that you did check out the second part of my interview with Jamie where we discuss her role at NASPO and on the board. Why she thought a podcast would be the best way to get information out. She's gonna talk about the list of top 10 priorities for state procurement, a list based on input from CPOs nationwide, and what she sees as the main horizon issues for public procurement. In the meantime, while you're waiting, check out the blog.., and subscribe to this podcast to get the latest and greatest. You do not want to be that person who doesn't know what happened on the pulse. I'm Kevin Minor until next time.