For state and local governments, IT procurement can be a difficult and frustrating process that often proves to be an innovation roadblock — or at least a speed bump. When the process is streamlined appropriately, however, it can be a critical link between vendors and governments, ensuring new technologies are rolled out effectively in the public sphere.
While some states, such as Ohio, have managed to revolutionize this process to make it quicker and more inclusive for smaller vendors, procurement overhaul is no simple matter.
To help smooth IT reform, however, a new report by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), is hoping to lay out strategies for change. The report, State IT Procurement Negotiations: Working Together to Reform and Transform, released earlier this year, urges collaboration and teamwork and lays out 18 recommendations for change.
Here are the top three pieces of advice from the report that can help fast-forward reforms and create a more collaborative procurement environment:
1. Centralize and Organize the IT Procurement Process
Without a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each agency and person in the procurement process, it’s unlikely to go well.
“Projects can and have failed because teams lacked strong leaders, clear marching orders and/or a shared vision,” the report states, adding that centralized IT procurement allows agencies to control costs and lay out a singular vision for state technology.
“Having both enterprise-architecture driven and centralized IT procurement reduces confusion and chaos, and helps give the needed direction and vision, no matter which agency ‘owns’ IT procurement,” the report adds.
Centralization can also improve accountability, increase transparency and maximize value, Megan Smyth, senior policy analyst at NASPO and principal author of the report told Government Technology.
“The need for an open and effective dialog, regardless of who owns IT procurement, is really key, and we want to emphasize that. Generally speaking, we promote centralization as a best practice at NASPO,” Smyth said.
2. Form Effective Cross-Agency Partnerships
CIOs and chief procurement officers can often be at odds with one another when it comes to pushing for innovative technologies that stay within budget constraints. But respondents to the NASCIO and NASPO survey found that orchestrating meetings “early and often” between CIOs and CPOs was key to successful IT procurement projects.
“Opening those lines of communication sooner in the process — getting your IT director and your procurement director in the same room — can really help to navigate that process,” Krista Ferrell, director of strategic programs for NASPO, told StateTech in an earlier interview. “There may be things that the procurement officer can do to help.”
Moreover, sharing information across all agencies can ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the procurement objectives and allow the discussions to move beyond overarching goals and into the nitty-gritty of innovation.
“Being able to get beyond the basics and into a deeper conversation about the problems being solved with the IT procurement in question can lead to better solutions for the state,” the report states. To do this, the report recommends establishing a central point of contact in both the CPO and CIO offices, which “increases the chances that information is flowing where it needs to go, and that the right people are coming together to discuss the important topics of the moment.”
3. CIOs and CPOs Can Collaborate on a Procurement Toolbox
The procurement process should start well before the request for proposal as CIOs and CPOs lay the groundwork for collaborative procurement with effective and shared tools that can streamline the process.
“Having tools in the shared toolbox like cooperative purchasing, master service agreements and pre-qualified vendor pools can prove invaluable when improving the way IT procurements are handled,” the report says. “Coming together to agree on methods for implementing those tools, and/or working out how to best use the tools currently available, can go a long way toward fostering a shared sense of ownership and responsibility for choosing the best methods for each individual procurement.”
If those tools are not yet available, a great place to start for CIOs and CPOs looking to create a smoother procurement process is to come together to determine which tools would be best and push for adoption across the state.