When the private sector buys technology, they remove all barriers to competition in order to get the most companies at the table with new ideas, Saha says. “Competition among tech companies drives innovation, so the more inclusive or open a procurement can be, the better product or services you’ll be offered.”

What can the public sector do? “Governments can level the competitive field by removing onerous terms and conditions (like unlimited liability), overly complicated or descriptive scopes of work, requiring companies to hold unreasonable levels of insurance or bonding, or even requiring a lot of references,” Saha (photo on the left) tells Government Procurement.

Saha says that while it’s important that governments protect themselves, there’s a line that makes things too difficult to bid. “For example, a state government required college degrees by all consultants working on IT projects. While this seems like a good way to get educated staff working on state projects, it was actually preventing consulting vendors from putting the best people in place that may have had decades of programming or coding experience but no college degree.”

Gillespie says that for public purchasers, the days of being the “procurement rules police” are long gone. “Given the complexities in many of our agency systems, it is essential that we provide solution options for our clients. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach with how an organization solves its technology issues and opportunities.”

Public purchasers, Gillespie explains, need to transform their approach to technology. “We must be flexible and have options in how we solve problems. I’m a firm believer in working with clients to discuss the pros and cons of various solutions, then working together with my client to identify the best solution for the unique situation. We must be partners in solving problems and pursuing opportunities.”

The alternative is grim, Gillespie concludes: “If we can’t show the value we bring to the table, we will no longer have a table to come to.”

Michael Keating (michael.keating@penton.com) is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. He’s written about the government market for USA Today, IndustryWeek, Industry Market Trends and more than 100 other publications. Contact Keating to request a copy of his "Resource Guide for Technology Purchasers" that accompanies this web item.