McKee says area universities, IT vendors, system integrators, graduate students and using departments can offer insight to the procurement team. An outsider looking in, for instance, could alert the team to fast-changing new technology, improved software, updated enterprise resource planning systems or innovative apps.

McKee (photo to the right) says outside organizations and personnel can sometimes serve as task force Subject Matter Experts when the buyers are preparing specifications. They can also help evaluate RFPs and, in general, share project knowledge and expertise.

COOPERATIVE PURCHASING’S ROLE

Cooperative purchasing vehicles can ease the workload and offer other benefits in technology buys. “They do play an important role, particularly for those jurisdictions like the one I’m in now, that just don’t the resources to not only do the procurement, but to evaluate it,” says Varda of the Frederick County (Va.) Public Schools.

Varda cites contracts for managed print services, like the leasing of copiers and printers for public entities, as a prime example. “It takes a lot of time to go through and review those contracts, because there are so many things and tasks that those devices touch nowadays in regards to the IT infrastructure. So, yes, co-ops play a huge role, particularly for those smaller jurisdictions that honestly, don’t have the bandwidth to do those types of procurements.”

Cooperative purchasing agreements can perform a valuable role, says Brett Adams-Case (photo on the left). He currently oversees a procurement group for the Wyoming Department of Enterprise Technology Services. The agency provides IT services to all Wyoming executive branch agencies and fixed-fee services to the legislative branches of government. He also serves on the NIGP task force that is developing the “IT Procurement Best Practice” series of reports.

“Many common IT products and software can easily be purchased leveraging cooperative agreements or opportunities,” Adams-Case explains. But that’s not all, he adds. “Cooperatives are also a great starting place for many large-scale IT projects such as enterprise resource planning systems, cloud storage solutions, etc.”

Cooperative procurement offerings can aid in the technology purchasing process, says Frank Shuftan, director of communications in Cook County, Ill.’s Office of the President. “Government has always had an appreciation for leveraging the efforts of similar entities. While it can be challenging at times, it is essential to develop and implement processes and standards that meet the legal requirements and standards required by a purchasing officer’s specific legislative body” Shuftan says.

There’s no shortage of co-ops, Shuftan explains. “In the current climate where there are so many cooperatives in the marketplace, government entities have to perform due diligence to ensure that partners meet their specific standards. More government agencies are doing more with less and cooperatives serve as an option for procuring goods and services.”

LET’S HAVE MORE COMPETITION AMONG VENDORS

Governments should encourage competition for public sector contracts, says Vijay Sammeta. He is the former CIO of San Jose, Calif. He is now CEO of Civic Foundry, LLC. The organization helps cities be smart about becoming a smart city.

“My advice to government procurement offices is to be more outcome-focused rather than prescriptive about individual specifications. That way, governments aren’t limiting competition through specifications that don’t particularly yield any value to the final outcome,” Sammeta (photo on the right) says. 

Intense competition in the tech space is important for public procurement, Sammeta adds. “Governments should align with where there is the largest amount of competition. That means there’s lots of interest from the private sector in buying these types of technologies.”

Local and state governments need to level the playing field and be forward-thinking when buying technology, urges Jennifer Saha. She is National Director, Public Sector Councils at CompTIA, a non-profit trade association. The group is the voice of the world’s information technology industry.