May 17 2017

Ohio’s New IT Procurement Process Invites ‘Little Guys’ Into the Fold

The state’s CIO is working to strip out onerous and expensive regulations to summon more startups and small businesses.

IT procurement, a lengthy and bulky process, is often a thorn in the side of government CIOs and the enemy of quick technology upgrades.

Centralizing procurement can save states time and money, but it’s often easier said than done. Across the country, however, state technology leaders are embarking on missions to change that and embrace more agile procurement methods.

Ohio Targets Startups With Looser, Less Expensive Regulations

Case in point is Ohio. With the aim to streamline its vendor-selection process and make it easier for smaller vendors to win contract awards, Ohio announced in late 2016 it would streamline its procurement process via a request for proposal for data analytics experts and services.

The RFP was aimed at vetting companies that could provide public or cloud-based analytics platform processing capabilities. What makes it special is that it that would ultimately prequalify vendors as well as reduce the burden on smaller vendors that can’t afford to jump through hoops.

“Our mandatories would preclude [smaller vendors] from doing business with the state. We didn’t want to make the responses so onerous that a company of five guys doing some pretty cool artificial intelligence or machine learning type applications and analysis, would have to spend $50,000 to respond to whatever we would put out,” Ohio CIO Stu Davis tells Government Technology.

The state looked to strip out “stupid” requirements, such as the mandate that a company have already worked in a state similar in size to Ohio, Davis says, making it possible to bring in new and innovative companies. It also pared down requirements around liability

Just a few months after releasing the RFP in January, the state has seen the benefits in reconfiguring how it buys hardware, software and IT services, before the RFP has even been filled.

While this isn’t the first RFP that prequalifies vendors, it is the first that looks to target smaller companies by cutting back onerous and expensive requirements to entry.

The data analytics RFP, which asked for services spanning 14 disciplines, has seen a significant uptick in interest and potential vendors, generating 82 total proposals from 129 businesses, and attracting 500 potential vendors to its pre-bid conference, Davis tells Government Technology.

Overall, the response is significantly larger than Ohio might normally expect for an RFP, Davis notes.

Ultimately, Davis says the state is looking to create something of a revolving door for startups and small businesses.

“If you can think about this business ecosystem with these startup companies, some are going to go away, some are going to be around, so the process for our prequel will be sort of a rolling thing,” Davis told Government Technology. “We’re trying to create a process on this prequalification for these startup companies, so it’s not just a one shot and we don’t open it up for three years. It’s more of a rolling every six weeks we’ll put something out."


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