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A Quick Guide to Conquering IT Procurement Challenges

If you haven’t figured it out already, we’ll fill you in: the purchasing process for IT software, equipment and services is daunting. For one, major software purchases should not be chosen lightly, as they set the precedent for your agency’s IT success in the coming years.

Just as a shopping trip for winter clothing would not be complete without evaluating the product quality, utility and style, the same goes for evaluating the new IT processes. How can you make sure your substantial IT purchase is fully optimized?

By taking on the challenges of the IT purchasing process head-on, the IT procurement will be both effective and successful. Yet relying on inept practices will only cause issues – so here are some new approaches to the challenges behind a better IT system for your agency.

According to this recent Government Technology report, Managing IT Procurements for Success, “these challenges can make it difficult for the IT procurement process to be successful. But by considering new approaches, you can address — and even overcome — many of these challenges.” The report highlights these areas where we can improve – and we’ve summarized them below.

How can you navigate potentially outdated procurement rules and processes?

Although procurement departments generally focus on just getting the best prices and terms for commodity items, IT purchases are unable to fit this approach. Technology is utilized as a “solution:” a set of products, consulting and support services, and processes developed after the vendor selection.

Today’s management is about understanding an easily overwhelming set of characteristics, as well as understanding the product. The stronger this knowledge, the more consistent the results. Review current rules and processes, and research new techniques through resources like peer groups and technology industry analysts.

What are the standard purchasing terms and conditions?

When it comes to IT investments, adjustments are sometimes required for payment terms, delivery parameters, and other aspects defined for typical purchasing. Sometimes, it’s also necessary to develop new practices for “best-value” contracting.

In order to optimize terms and conditions, work to review and adjust your purchasing contracts. Refer to similar agencies for advice and examples, or look into alternative contract conditions on a state or local level. Look into utilizing agreements that would leverage another agency – or procuring together, to be able to share services and reduce costs.

How to approach procurement staff and boost technology expertise

It’s a big problem for purchasing staff to optimize and maintain IT procurement expertise. On top of that, the growing numbers of IT services adoption, rather than hardware or software purchases, means developing a better understanding of service pricing and delivery models, as well as the right funding allocations.

There are several ways procurement staff can better develop their technology knowledge. Using other agencies with similar IT procurements to educate staff and see actual solutions means that the RFP will be optimized for your agency. For another, looking into resources can be used to educate procurement staff.

How to respond to procurement response burden

To keep up with the needs of citizens, governments need to be able to keep up with technology and move at the speed of the internet. Although many innovative solutions come from startups, those vendors typically lack resources to respond to larger government needs. Because of the gap, IT departments find themselves settling for solutions that compromise price, capabilities and design.

In order to best review Response for Proposal (RFP) documents, questions about size, cost savings and technology advantages need to be considered when it comes to potential vendors.

Working with reduced IT staff levels

Since June 2009, more than 750,000 jobs have been eliminated from federal, state and local agencies. Affected within those jobs are many government IT departments. The few technical personnel remaining then spend more time managing IT operations – meaning that they have less capacity to help staff create RFPs.

Reducing the procurement task burden can simplify the entire purchasing effort for the project. Looking at methods of leveraging another agency’s procurement, consulting with peers who have bought similar solutions, and researching best practices can help staffers.

Dealing with technology advancements

Technology moves quickly, and there are too many instances in which IT projects miss the boat on technology advancements. On the other hand, new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud technologies mean that new and unfamiliar procurement issues emerge for the staff working on the project.

As a result, taking advantage of advancements that automate document creation and optimize workflow reduce the demand of routine tasks on procurement staff.

Because of challenges like department cuts, technology advancements, and outdated processes, staffers must be able to understand what they can realistically expect from a technology purchase. Ultimately, IT procurement can be a hassle without doing research into best practices and optimal solutions first. With the right research, IT procurement can be an efficient and ease-filled purchasing effort.

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