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By Nick Wakeman

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Should procurement be a game?

I recently caught a rebroadcast of an NPR story from December on how companies are turning to games as a tool for picking the right people to hire.

Using games such as Wasabi Waiter, where the job candidate plays a waiter in a restaurant serving needy customers, can reveal more about the candidate than interviews and reference checks, the developers say.

The player must make multiple decisions, prioritize, sequence actions and persevere as the game becomes more difficult, said Guy Halftek, CEO of the game’s developer Knack.it.

The data from all of those decisions and actions are collected and analyzed to gain insights into the person and help make a better hiring decision.

The story got me thinking: Procurement is pretty much a hiring process, isn’t it? And most people agree it is a process begging for improvement.

There are problems on both the contractor side and the customer side of the equation:

  • Contractors who oversell capabilities
  • Customers who can’t articulate requirements
  • Pricing issues
  • Oversight and management issues
  • Known unknowns and the dreaded unknown unknowns

So why not create a game where bidders take on the project in a virtual world? The agency can throw all kinds of scenarios at the bidders to test how they respond and the virtual world can model their solutions and help pick the best one.

The winner of the game is the winning of the contract.

This kind of system for source selection wouldn’t take human judgment out of the decision making process but would augment it. Maybe IBM’s Watson could be the infrastructure for the game.

We’re entering the era of Big Data, so gaming scenarios could be one of the ways to extract knowledge and insights into the procurement process from the vast seas of information that are out there.

Not only could gaming help pick the winner but it also might be a powerful tool for better understanding the problem the government is trying to address. Maybe it could identify where the project is going to fail before millions are spent.

Why don’t we use our growing computing power and data analytics prowess on the front end of the process in addition to test and evaluation afterwards?

Maybe this is a crazy idea. I’m neither an expert in procurement nor gaming, but it seems it is a concept worth exploring. It could be a great business opportunity for the company that develops it.

It might attract people to procurement that might otherwise shun it. Besides it might be a lot of fun too.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 21, 2014 at 7:54 AM


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