When they acquire systems and software, cities and counties need to concentrate on what’s important, says Sanford “Sandy” Taylor, Fremont Calif.’s director of information technology. He cites the following key considerations that jurisdictions need to keep in mind when they buy technology:
- Identify functional and technical needs for the technology. This part of the procurement process is crucial to achieve the local government’s intended goals.
- Identify and secure funding for the technology procurement.
- Procure technology that conforms to the local government’s rules, policies and/or state and federal regulations.
Taylor explains that local governments typically adhere to adopted purchasing ordinances. “It’s important to understand what processes are required (e.g., is a public bid or RFP required? and is city council approval necessary?). In addition, it’s important to vet the vendors to understand their qualifications for the needed service or product.”
Taylor says there any several best practices that should come into play when buying tech. “A government needs to follow a rigorous procurement process in line with adopted purchasing regulations for that government. Adhering to a rigorous purchasing process is vital to demonstrating to a government’s constituency that public funds are being used in the most efficient way possible.”
He adds that government should rely on a project management standard, such as Scrum, PMBOK, IPMA or PRINCE2to help ensure a successful tech buy. “Adhering to a project management standard is not only beneficial for the procurement process itself, but also for the overall success of a project. Using a project management standard provides project stakeholders with common methodology to follow when purchasing hardware and software. The timeline of the project dictates the need and not before, which could result in storage concerns and contract execution delays, false starts or miss-starts.”
Taylor has more than 27 years of IT leadership experience. He has worked for the California cities of Manhattan Beach, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and in private industry before coming to Fremont. He says several job-titles would be a good fit on a city’s tech-buying team. On the information technology side, Taylor suggests that local governments include the following on their tech-procurement teams:
- Member(s) of the division where the technology will be supported from (e.g., enterprise systems, geographic information system, infrastructure services, etc.)
• Member(s) responsible for assisting with the procurement process (administrative)
• Member(s) of the cybersecurity team
• Department head
• Other stakeholders
• Project leads from other local government departments that will use the technology
Taylor says that Fremont city administrators rely on the information technology services department for technology procurements. “They work in concert with the requesting departments to review technology purchase needs.”
Several essential skills should be present among team members, Taylor says. “Necessary skills include project management, knowledge about cybersecurity, experience with the procurement process, as well as rules and regulations specific to the local government.” He adds that members of the tech-buying team should have functional expertise depending on the specific procurement. In addition, team members should have experience in general budgeting and accounting.
Taylor says it’s crucial for cities to do internal training for the buyers to understand the city’s purchasing ordinances and the tools available. “Here in Fremont, internal training for buyers is the prerogative of the finance department, purchasing division. That said, the information technology services department adheres to the city of Fremont Purchasing Procedures (Administrative Regulations 3.1 [A.R. 3.1]).” Regulation A.R. 3.1 provides guidance for method of contracting and procurement procedures to follow based on project cost. The categories are:
- Minor projects ($5,000 or less)
- Informal bidding (greater than $5,000 up through $25,000)
- Formal bidding (greater than $25,000)
The city’s regulations have additional requirements for contracts in amounts greater than $100,000.
Taylor says cooperative purchasing agreements can be effectively used to acquire technology. He says his team relies on cooperative contracts for more common telecommunication services, networking and server hardware. His team also uses cooperative agreements for his agency’s Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (Microsoft EA) subscription for Microsoft products.
In Fremont, Taylor says cooperative purchasing agreements have saved time and resources for public procurement staffers and city departments. “By leveraging cooperative agreements, the city has reduced our budgetary spend significantly by 20 to 50 percent off of the list price for technology.”
OMNIA Partners Public Sector offers cooperative agreements that enable local governments to acquire needed technology. This site spotlights cooperative contracts for new products and solutions, including IT.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected].