Dec 31 2009

Winning the Procurement Race

Procurement officers are in an arduous race
to spend all their procurement dollars before the Sept. 30
deadline. Due to increasing delays in passing the federal
budget in recent years, most procurement funds aren't
released until spring. That leaves federal agencies with just
the summer months to make their entire purchases for the
year. If the allotted funds don't get spent, they're lost.

Here's how some procurement and IT experts plan to
make it to the finish with their funds spent and sanity intact:

Tim Beans, chief acquisition officer,
U.S Agency for International

• Request bids for technology even
before funds are available:
This saves
time because you can make purchases as
soon as the money becomes available.
Work closely with technical colleagues
because they know what they will buy.
We will put a requirement on the street
with a statement that it's pending the
availability of federal dollars.

• Ask IT staff to explain their technology
requirements in detail:
The more detailed
the requirements are, the easier it is for you
to find vendors that fit your agency's needs.
The best thing technical officers can do is
put down on paper what they are trying to
buy—good project descriptions, good
statements of objectives, good
specifications for a particular item.

• Exercise to reduce stress: This is a time
when procurement officers work long
hours, so I suggest going to the gym and
working out.

Randall Reymer, staff assistant to
the CIO, Treasury Inspector General
for Tax Administration

• Team planning and good
communication are crucial:
and budget officials and managers work
closely together in forecasting new
initiatives throughout the fiscal year. We
have formalized the process of submission
and approval of procurements. Having
everyone understand the
process and be active
participants are key ways to
minimize procurement delays.

• Review spending regularly:
Our goal is to spend funds
according to our financial plan
so we don't have to do any last-minute procurements. We
conduct quarterly reviews to
compare funds budgeted in
projects to what has been spent
year to date. If funds are
identified that will not be spent,
the agency's Investment Review Board
makes a determination on how those
funds shall be reprogrammed.

Dawn Whitehorne, manager of
public sector profile products, Input,
a Reston, Va.-based analyst firm

• Consolidate contracts: If it makes
sense, two agencies with similar needs
should work together and make their
purchases through one contract. That
will save money. Otherwise, both
agencies have to do the same research,
write the same requirements and search
for the same vendors.

• Put in-depth information on agency
Web sites:
If you make it easier on
vendors, that will ease the procurement
process. Some agency Web sites are
wonderful and give all the information you
need, while others have very scarce or
difficult-to-find procurement information.

• Sponsor events to tell vendors about
agency needs:
An agency should hold
events dedicated to vendors, at which
agency officials speak, and vendors
learn what the agency's requirements are
and how to work with them. It's hitting
the vendor community in numbers,
instead of one on one. The fewer phone
calls agencies have to take, the easier it
is for them.

Scott Shippey, IT specialist,
Food and Drug Administration

• IT staff should research the technology
they need:
I always verify through vendors
that my order includes everything I need
before I submit it to procurement. That way,
I don't have to go back and say, "I forgot I
needed this." When I deal with procurement
officers, I get quotes from the vendors and
send it in, and they bid it out to whoever
comes up with the best price.