Big Texas, Limited Resources
How the City of Hutto Purchasing Department benefits from the SourceSuite e-procurement solution.
About the City of Hutto:
- Hutto, Texas has a population of less than 20,000 residents, and a municipal administration of fewer than 90 employees
- Hutto is the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Annual Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award (AEP) from the National Procurement Institute (NPI).
- Randy Barker, Internal Services Manager of the City of Hutto, also acts as the head of purchasing
- Fun fact: The City of Hutto has adopted the mascot of the hippopotamus. Although the story behind Hutto's choice of mascot varies depending on who you ask, the city proudly displays hippos in residents' front yards, has designated a hippo as the high school mascot, and a hippo can also be found (if you look closely!) in the City's branded logo.
The City of Hutto has "one (resource) dedicated to the purchasing function, but we are also somewhat decentralized, so all departments have a user that is involved in procurement of goods & supplies," said Mr. Barker. Hutto currently uses the Texas Purchasing Group, powered by the SourceSuite e-procurement solution, to distribute formal bids and proposals.
Hutto is one of the smaller cities in the big state of Texas. Although Hutto is part of the Austin metropolitan area, the city has limited staff and resources to focus on procurement initiatives. As the head of purchasing, Mr. Barker found that the city's financial software was not sufficient for supplier management and went in search of a third-party solution. The city "had grown to the point that manual maintenance of a vendor database was no longer possible", Barker recalled. He found himself struggling daily to give vendors an answer on where to find the city's bid opportunities. He fielded constant phone calls from vendors who wanted to view open solicitations, which took time away from other pressing business.
The City of Hutto joined the Texas Purchasing Group, a bid system for Texas local government agencies powered by SourceSuite, in 2011. The Texas bid system allows local governments to simplify and automate many purchasing processes, freeing up resources for other tasks. Vendor management includes online vendor registration, complete tracking of vendor activities when viewing solicitations or downloading documents, and access to the vendor database in one centralized, online location. "The centralized site to point vendors towards registration has proven to be a big time-saver. I am contacted daily by phone, email, fax and regular mail from companies wanting to be put on our vendor list," Barker explained. "I have instructions on our City website as well as on the back of my business cards. Communicating the steps to register is quick and efficient."
An added benefit of joining the Texas Purchasing Group was an increase in local vendor competition. Joining a system with other agencies gave the City of Hutto an opportunity to increase vendor outreach and share resources with the bid system's network of agencies. Barker offered advice to vendors looking for business with local Texas government agencies: "This is a great opportunity for you to get on a level playing field with other vendors, while ensuring that you are not missing possible opportunities to compete for business."
Solicitation management and bid distribution simplification were added incentives for the City of Hutto to join the Texas Bid System. "I had evolved our internal process into contact of known firms through Outlook distribution groups, but that required diligent management to ensure everyone was included," Barker said. "Now, I can post and know that everyone registered has been contacted. "The City of Hutto currently posts construction, goods and services RFQs, IFBs (sealed bids) and RFPs on the purchasing system. "As an example, I posted an RFQ last week. The posting process took less than 5 minutes, but over 200 vendors were contacted within seconds of my posting. By the end of the day, over 30 vendors had already downloaded our specification documents," Barker explained. "(This system is) a much more efficient solicitation process and one that lends professionalism and integrity to our agency's effort." In the past, Barker was limited in organizing and tracking what documents suppliers had opened and responded to. Through the Texas Purchasing System, all statistics through the bidding process can be documented with confidence. Since joining the bid system, the City of Hutto has yet to have an award challenged.
In addition to the features Randy Barker has already utilized, the Texas Bid System and other SourceSuite e-procurement systems offer many more time-saving features that the City of Hutto plans to take advantage of moving forward. "We intend to add the electronic receipt of bids, proposals and submittals in 2013. We are also planning to implement the quote process this year for procurement needs less than the formal solicitation threshold," Barker said. "We now have tools to function more efficiently; we just have to bring our internal processes inline."