Procurement team keeps a grip on budget reality
San Diego’s economy remains strong as the city projects modest revenue growth in its current budget, says Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. Even so, “Fiscal Year 2019 continues to be a lean budget year” for funding core community services, says the mayor. Core services include road repair, parks, libraries, public safety and the Clean San Diego cleanup and beautification program.
Kristina Peralta, director of San Diego’s Purchasing & Contracting Department, is working to keep her agency’s budget in line with reality. “It’s challenging but doable,” she tells Co-op Solutions. Peralta and her team are coping with limited funds. “Our budget challenge this fiscal year is making our organization rethink the way we carry out our work. We have less and need to do more with available resources, but we are still doing great things.”
Peralta’s procurement team supports an organization of 11,000 city employees and 35 departments. ”Like most municipal procurement teams, we are inundated with requests which range from the mundane to the very complex. I have a staff [when fully staffed] of 15.”
She says monitoring her department’s bandwidth and tracking projects is paramount. “We definitely do not have the right amount of resources, but no one does and no one ever will. The solution isn’t requesting resources, but maximizing your team and holding your client departments responsible for their part of the process. We have made tremendous strides in shifting from a department that is a roadblock to slowly being seen as a collaborator and as a guide.”
Peralta says her team uses cooperative purchasing agreements in specific, strategic situations. “We utilize cooperatives in areas where it makes the most sense and we get the biggest value out of them: office supplies, large equipment rentals, uniform services, tires, vehicles, maintenance, repair, operations (MRO), etc.”
The Purchasing & Contracting Department has achieved technology successes, Peralta tells Co-op Solutions. The city is currently in the midst of implementing an end-to-end e-procurement system. “Part of the reason that we have been successful with our digital transformation is that [so] little attention had been given to our procurement functions — where we could make a strong business case for ourselves.”
Procurement professionals need to be vocal and articulate about the benefits of a digital transformation, and champion their department’s needs — even when the pathway is uncertain, Peralta says. “Change management isn’t easy — not just because people do not like change; it isn’t easy because of the uncertainty on the other end. Implementations are made or broken by the relationship between IT and the agency or department. I have been very fortunate to have a great team on the IT side as a partner.”
Support from higher-ups is key, Peralta says. “In my experience, support from the C-Suite or C-Level executives is critical in making progressive changes in procurement. Procurement is often overlooked because even if it’s dysfunctional, if it’s ‘working’ then why put money into it to make it better when there are often — and there are always — competing priorities.” In municipal agencies it often becomes a question of providing services versus enhancing processes to gain efficiencies, Peralta explains.
In a digital transformation, the goal should be to free your staff from the transactional so they can participate in higher level work, Peralta says. “Success factors for selection, adoption and implementation of technology are laid in a foundation of knowing that you are not digitizing your ‘paper process’ but you are changing your business process to gain efficiencies and internal controls.”
Peralta adds that it is imperative that as a procurement official you know what the long-term goal is. “Is your goal for your organization,100 percent contract compliance in the next term, or are you wanting to simplify the contract drafting process between departments?” She urges: “Have those goals in mind and think big picture.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org