Tight funding leads to being more efficient
“Frugal” is one way to describe local government budgets, says Brian R. Smith, Purchasing Manager in Multnomah County, Ore. “Our economic forecast here at Multnomah County is that we are going into the first of five years of General Fund cuts. In general, budgets are certainly getting tighter,” Smith tells Co-Op Solutions.
The county has taken several steps that should help compensate for limited budgets, Smith says. Those include adopting a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and implementing several business process changes. “I am optimistic that Procurement can rise to the challenge to deliver even greater value to our clients as the funds tighten,” Smith explains.
Before the ERP software was selected via an RFP, the county put an implementation team in place. “This was based on a belief that there were multiple products that could meet our technical requirements, and that the biggest impact on the success or failure of the implementation was the implementation team,” Smith says. County leaders made the project a priority — and supported the tough decisions that came from that, which was crucial to the project’s success, he adds. Another key to success was that the ERP project team was made up of six sub projects — one of which was exclusively focused on change management, Smith says.
Multnomah County Purchasing has used an intern to perform a variety of tasks and to help the department keep up with its workload. Smith has created a formal internship program for the department, even though he hasn’t had the budget to fully implement it. “It’s a structured approach intended to get people into the profession and on the path to certification,” Smith says. He adds: “Internships are an important way to prime the pump for purposes of succession planning.”
In the program, the department supervisor and the intern create a monthly plan which includes specific items from the Critical Purchasing Experiences list. This list encompasses specific tasks, activities, and exposure to the work completed by professional buyers which is mapped to each of the six areas in the Universal Public Procurement Certification Council (UPPCC) Body of Knowledge for Certified Professional Public Buyers (CPPB). These areas include:
- Procurement Administration
- Negotiation Process
- Contract Administration
- Supply Management
- Strategic Procurement Planning
As budgets tighten, Smith says his department is scoping out and using more cooperative purchasing agreements. Multnomah County Purchasing aims to make more of the co-op agreements available to its internal clients through the department’s recently launched Multco Marketplace Supplier Portal. It is an E-Procurement system that provides suppliers and purchasing staff with a community space to share opportunities for potential contracts. The Multco Marketplace offers:
- A secure location for staff to interact with suppliers for market research and small dollar purchases,
- A place for suppliers to view and respond to intermediate and formal solicitations,
- A web resource to update business information, including changes or expansions of services and, contact information.
Also on the cooperative purchasing front in Oregon, the Intergovernmental Cooperative Purchasing (ICP) group, which is part of the Columbia Chapter of the NIGP, has created a web resource that lists and describes contracts that contain cooperative language. A search bar was recently added to the site that enables locating a variety of contracts. Go here to access the ICP resource.
“The ICP Google spreadsheet that we have is available and open to anyone who finds themselves on our website,” says Annie Teav, who has been serving as an ICP Director for the Columbia Chapter of the NIGP for a few years. She is a Strategic Contract Administration Specialist at Multnomah County Purchasing.
“One way people can use the search feature on the site is by simply searching by a keyword for something they need. If there is cooperative language, they can do their own due diligence to ensure that they will be able to piggyback a cooperative contract responsibly,” Teav says.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org