Decentralized Procurement Finds Centralized Bid System
How the departments in the City of Arvada's decentralized purchasing structure have benefited from the SourceSuite e-procurement solution.
ABOUT THE CITY OF ARVADA:
- The City of Arvada is the home of an estimated 109,157 residents in the Denver metropolitan area, making it the sixth most populous city in Colorado.
- The City of Arvada operates under a decentralized purchasing system. Each of the City’s 13 departments has the authority to administer to their procurement needs, in adherence to the purchasing ordinance. Procurement professionals within the small purchasing division function as consultants, assisting departments with procedural issues or, when requested, with the development and administration of more complex solicitations for goods/services.
- Pete Toth has been the Purchasing Manager for the City of Arvada for more than 15 years and is also a member of both the Rocky Mountain Government Purchasing Association (RMGPA) and the National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP). Under Toth’s guidance, the City of Arvada joined the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System to bring together its multiple departments and divisions on a centralized purchasing platform. The Colorado and Wyoming regional bid system is hosted by BidNet’s procurement solution, SourceSuite.
THE CHALLENGE:Before joining the SourceSuite purchasing system, the City of Arvada struggled to find consistency in its procurement solicitation process. With purchasing decentralized, Arvada departments, and the associated divisions, were using various methods to distribute solicitations. “At any one time we had the potential that staff in more than 50 divisions were divided amongst different approaches. We wanted to bring all of our purchasing solicitation postings together, to one platform,” Toth said. He also recalled that without a designated purchasing database, maintaining vendor lists became a cumbersome process. “We did have limited administrative staff that was monitoring and managing our suppliers, but there was only so much we could expect them to do.” Toth knew it was time to explore e-procurement solutions for Arvada’s purchasing needs.
Toth wanted to pursue unity among Arvada’s departments and divisions to improve purchasing efficiency and transparency. In January 2011, the City of Arvada transitioned to the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System (RMEPS) under Toth’s leadership. Arvada now has had access to a shared, centralized, public sector bid distribution platform. More importantly to Toth, the City’s decentralized purchasing was now organized on one, internet-based, regional purchasing group. “The biggest benefit for us was the technological advancement and functionality,” Toth said. “The City’s solicitations could now be organized and managed within one system.” Within the last three years, more local government agencies within Colorado and Wyoming are also seeing the value in a shared, regional bid system. Toth has watched the Rocky Mountain Bid System grow from 60 agencies in 2011 to over 100 today.
The Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System offered the City of Arvada a full supplier management solution. SourceSuite fully automates the supplier process, including online vendor registration, tracking of solicitation views and document downloads, and access to a system generated vendor database in a convenient, centralized location. The database is maintained by the purchasing group, with updates to supplier contact information and instant notification of open bids directly sent to vendor email inboxes. Toth said when he thinks back to those years of “barely automated bidder lists” and compares them to now, he just smiles.
In addition to increased efficiency through the supply chain, Arvada now has a full solicitation management solution. As a buying agency on the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System, Toth can manage and review all archived solicitations, addenda and awards posted by Arvada in a single location. Solicitations are posted and distributed to industry-targeted vendors on the platform in less than five minutes. Beyond that, all SourceSuite users are given access to BidNet’s national bid library. Within the national archives, buying agencies can search through thousands of past bids and documents similar to match their upcoming project. “I put a value on getting solicitations posted, distributed and awarded as fast and efficiently as possible,” Toth remarked. “The Rocky Mountain [E-Purchasing System] makes the process easier.”
Toth and the City of Arvada were excited about the automated, efficient process that the Rocky Mountain E-Purchasing System offered to their de-centralized buying organization. Toth said that suppliers are enjoying the ease and convenience of being able to connect with Arvada from an online platform, while city staff are impressed with the bid system’s ability to simplify the purchasing process. “Push back from implementation of the system has not been an issue, and that’s a good signal,” Toth stated.
Additionally, Toth has been pleased with the ease-of-use and overall functionality of the bid system. SourceSuite purchasing groups emphasize the ability to operate its systems without the involvement of an IT staff. The software-as- a-service model requires no installation and its cloud based interface makes the purchasing platform simple to navigate. “The overall functionality [of the bid system] is something that has made our transition easy,” Toth said. “I’m not from a technical generation, but the bid system just makes sense. It’s intuitive and user-friendly.”
As e-procurement continues to evolve, the City of Arvada looks forward to the prospect of electronic bid submissions in its purchasing process. Paperless bidding is a feature that’s offered with SourceSuite bid systems and is being implemented by buying organizations across the county. Electronic bidding shortens response time, saving resources and money for purchasing departments. SourceSuite supports electronic bidding submissions from suppliers in all goods and services industries, as well as construction bids. With Arvada’s relatively high ratio of Requests for Proposals or Qualifications, the City requires vendors to download those solicitation documents and manually submit proposals. “When we have the opportunity to start using the electronic bidding piece, we’ll need to put it through some testing to see how it might have relevance for us,” Toth said. As the Rocky Mountain system continues to eclipse the 100 agencies mark, Toth said, “I look forward to seeing what the future of procurement and technological evolutions bring for Arvada, our departments and the bid system.”