D.C. expands Internet purchases

Washington, DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer

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Washington, D.C. officials expect to soon double the number of agencies using the city's Web procurement system.

Officials from the District of Columbia recently announced expanded use of its electronic procurement system, which was unveiled in late July. Currently, 30 agencies are ordering goods and services through the Web-based Procurement Automated Support System (PASS) and another 30 agencies are expected to use the system by December, said Sanford Lazar, director of key systems with the city's technology office

PASS, like the other projects within the government's Administrative Services Modernization Program (ASMP), is expected to help city agencies save money and time, and improve efficiency. The enterprise resource planning project will break down stovepipes, increase collaboration and data sharing, and improve accountability and decision-making, added Lazar.

Previously, when agencies ordered goods and services, they filled out forms, checked the budget for funds, submitted orders and waited up to five weeks. Now, when a requisition goes into PASS -- which is linked to the city's financial systems -- the e-procurement system checks to see if there's money in the budget within six seconds, Lazar said. If the money is there, the system immediately secures the funds, a purchase order is mailed, and goods and services are received in five or so days, he said.

Currently, the city has registered 2,700 vendors and 227 catalogs representing 55,000 items. By December, the system will have 4,300 vendors and 300 catalogs, Lazar said. A major outreach effort via the Internet, posters, e-mails and surveys are being conducted to garner agency participation.

The government is using technology provided by Ariba, Inc. and SeeBeyond Technology Corp. to automate complex business processes and workflow spanning different systems. Part of that architecture and code will be reused for other ASMP projects.

Ross Altman, SeeBeyond's chief technology officer, said the city's approach to integration is the same as software: Invest in it once and use many times. For example, the city is currently integrating a PeopleSoft Inc. human resources platform, planned for next June. Forty percent of that code will be reused, Lazar said.

The 5-year long ASMP project costs about $75.5 million. Although many state and city governments are experiencing significant budget revenue shortfalls, Lazar said the projected return on investment was too big to ignore. Washington, D.C. officials expect the comprehensive governmentwide modernization project eventually will yield about $150 million in savings through 2006.

Besides new procurement and human resources systems, the city is developing new systems for payroll, time and attendance, benefits and pension administration, recruitment and hiring, budget and planning and property management.

Instead of using a prime contractor, city officials are managing all the different vendors through a single integrated plan through an incremental approach, Lazar said. Selecting the right product and integrator doesn't guarantee success, he said, but choosing the right people does make a difference.

When the city officials evaluate integrators, they evaluate the company's previous project experience and methodology, he said.

"But we also evaluate actual team members that are going to be on our project -- key leads, conversion leads, organizational change leads, functional experts," Lazar said, adding they review resumes and do personal interviews and reference checks on individuals and companies.

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