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Collaborative RFP Strategies Drive Better Public Sector IT

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Technology and procurement professionals work together to enhance rfp strategies and modernize the IT buying process.

Procurement often serves as the critical link between great ideas for IT innovation and successful projects. A request for proposals presents a complex undertaking, yet comes down to a simple question: Can the RFP take our organization from concept to realization?

An RFP provides the opportunity to hone detail and direction, and focus attention on the practical aspects of a deployment. It also presents potential problems in navigating a rapidly changing technology landscape.

Chief procurement officers and CIOs “face many challenges as states struggle to reform sometimes decades old procurement systems,” NASCIO and the National Association of State Procurement Officials reported in a joint statement earlier this year.

“Leading IT procurement transformation continues to be a priority for state procurement leaders nationally, and NASPO is committed to working with our IT partners to be at the forefront of this effort,” said Lawrence Larry Maxwell, NASPO president and New Mexico State Purchasing Director.

Procurement teams often find themselves understaffed, as a result of retirements, losses to the private sector and agencies not replacing employees let go during the Great Recession. Almost 40 percent of procurement professionals said their teams were stretched or working extra hours to keep up with deadlines, according to a 2017 survey by Onvia, a government business intelligence company. Overworked staff can have a negative impact, including poorly worded bid language, Onvia reports. On the other hand, high-performing procurement teams generate additional interest from bidders, regardless of agency size.
A Meeting of the Minds Sifts Out State RFP Best Processes

To help address those and other challenges, IT officials can take a fresh look at their RFP process and how they work with buyers. In that spirit, NASCIO and NASPO last year convened a joint roundtable to discuss advancing IT and procurement modernization. Leaders had the opportunity to collaborate with peers in other states to discuss obstacles, solutions and next steps for rfp strategies.

The roundtable’s participants cited “executive leadership,” “data and analytics,” “new collaborations and partnerships” and “increasing transparency and accessibility” as the most important enablers for IT and procurement modernization. They determined the most significant barriers to be “workforce constraints,” “organizational culture,” “managing issues around control and accountability” and “establishing a governance structure and operating model.”

The event resulted in a joint action plan to redesign how CIOs and chief procurement officers work together. The plan features a recurring theme of three C’s: collaboration, cooperation and communication.