Procurement success tips from a city administrator-turned-marketer
The timing of current procurement schedules with states and larger municipal agencies can be way too long, says Paul Brandenburg. He was a city manager or administrator in six cities and is now Dell Technologies’ Business Development Manager for State and Local Government.
“A 12- to 24-month procurement schedule is inefficient and may actually increase costs, as the price today may not be the same in 12-24 months,” Brandenburg explains. He says cities and states have to make sure they are acquiring the latest systems. “Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that what you are bidding out may already be ‘old’ technology when it is finally brought in and connected to your system a year later.” Accelerate the process, Brandenburg urges. “Moving quicker will allow for state and local governments to take advantage of better pricing.”
Brandenburg encourages procurement teams to use the following tools to ensure adequate competition. He says the tools keep parties honest and sharp with their proposals and pricing.
‑— Contract consortiums. These purchasing vehicles often offer cooperative purchasing agreements. The agreements may have categories for various lines of IT business, such as desktop, laptop, mobile devices, servers, storage, software and more. Sometimes the agreements and governments’ needs may not match up, Brandenburg says. “Vendors may only have storage to provide, and users may only be purchasing software. But consortiums allow for competition, best pricing, flexibility and transparency.”
‑— Bulk buying. This process can include buying off of state contract. “As an individual entity buying laptops, my price may be X. If I participate with fifty other entities, my price will be Y, which is lower than if I bid alone. Bulk buying decreases cost for all of the participating entities,” Brandenburg explains. He adds that bulk buying can ensure entities are getting the best price.
‑— Bid boards. States have bid information on their websites, and counties and cities usually have a link on their webpage to Procurement/Purchasing, which will have RFPs, as well as their rules, policies and procedures for the vendor community, Brandenburg says.
Those tools can all make a difference in product and service acquisition, Brandenburg says. “Pool power can have a positive impact when used effectively, efficiently and with financial prudence.” The tools can provide some piece of mind, he adds. “Knowing that your agency is getting the best price is good for agencies and more importantly, taxpayer transparency.”
Today’s technology buys cover a lot of ground, Brandenburg says. “Technology is moving at such a rapid pace and the portfolio of products has increased with it. It is no longer for just desktops. You have laptops, tablets, cell phones, software, storage, security, body wear, surveillance cameras, sensors, monitors, etc.” He adds that agencies nowadays need unique tech specific to each agency. “In Information Technology, it is no longer about just keeping the lights on. It is providing and supporting each agency’s particular operations with the necessary technological tools and equipment.”
Brandenburg believes it’s becoming more of a challenge to recruit and retain talent in the public sector. “Part of the problem is due to the economics and whether or not the public sector can compete against the wages and work environment of the private sector.” He says agencies should look for ways to be more attractive employers. These can include providing work flexibility, mobility, workspace improvements, quality tools (modernized technology), career paths and succession planning.
Brandenburg says government entities should grow their own next generation of workers through the use of interns from universities and technical schools. “Higher education provides an immediate workforce, but employers still take the risk of training employees, developing them into productive staffers, and having them move on for more pay or a better working environment.”
He is a big supporter of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academic programs to recruit tech talent to the public sector. “I believe this is an area we need to continue to grow and cultivate for talent at the government level.”
Where are procurement departments’ staffing and budgets, including IT budgets, headed in 2019-2020? “Generally, I see them growing at a pace to keep up with the demand of the organization, operations and agencies they support, as well as increased demands from a more interactive and connected citizenry that expects transparency,” Brandenburg says.
He recommends agencies conduct a benchmarking exercise against comparable communities to analyze where their IT Department is, not just the budget, but also Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) and what they all support. He says the exercise should look at the number of apps, servers, storage, software, desktops, laptops, mobile devices and other IT gear that are available for the agency’s staffers.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org