Prism Software Aids Procurement Work Flow

The District of Columbia's Office of Contracting and Procurement recently tapped Compusearch Software Systems Inc., McLean, Va., to provide a procurement management software system dubbed Prism. Taking cues from the federal government, D.C. will use the product to jump-start a central buying program that mirrors the schedules program at the U.S. General Services Administration.

More than 140 city agencies, commissions and small offices soon will use Prism for purchasing. "We're not just implementing a system, we are placing programming in it with catalog items [that] people can order directly from the catalog. We will create our own version of the GSA schedule," said Harry Black, deputy chief of procurement.

Compusearch has a strong federal customer base, which the 1-year-old company is looking to leverage in the state and local government market. Prism handles procurement, contract development and management in client/server and Web-based environments. D.C. settled on Prism because it incorporates many aspects of centralized purchasing, Black said. "Most products out there do either contracts or purchasing, and we didn't want to have to interface two packages." The product automates procurement from requisitioning to closeout and archiving. It can accommodate blanket purchase agreements, online catalogs and supplier price schedules. It also lets users communicate electronically with vendors and within the procurement office.

"We're trying to make the whole procurement cycle as short and efficient as possible to cut down on costs," said Brock Lending, chief technology officer for Compusearch. The software contains an electronic workflow component that allows documents to be routed for approval electronically, with a full audit trail of all people who have seen the documents.

"This allows the originator to keep track of what's happening with the document, where it is in the [approval] process and what's happening at each step of the way," he said. Users also can attach supporting documents such as spreadsheets, drawings and correspondence to the procurement information so that people on the approval list also have access to them.

Prism includes Web-based modules that link requisitioners, legal personnel and others who may not have a direct network connection to the procurement office. And because the Web modules share the same centralized database as the client/server module, "requisitioners don't have to be physically connected to the same [metropolian-area network or wide-area network] that buyers are connected to," Lending said. "Requisitioners can submit via Internet or intranet, and the procurement office would have immediate access to them."

Prism was developed for government and public-sector agencies and includes more than 50 system switches that users can turn on and off to fit their workflow needs and procurement policies. "That's important because no two procurement offices do procurement the same way," Lending said. The software also allows users to set up security groups to customize which modules can be accessed by users.

Compusearch is pursuing state and local opportunities through partnerships with major consulting firms such as Booze-Allen & Hamilton Inc. and PricewaterhouseCoopers (formerly Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand). The company also has started working with Datamatix Inc. and IBM Corp. on the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing Inc.'s master contract for electronic commerce services. More than 6,000 state and local agencies now order directly from the NIGP contract.

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