Improving procurement with Web 2.0

Using social collaboration tools can help make big city procurement procurement projects more transparent and efficient, Washington D.C's chief technology officer said today.

Vivek Kundra, the District of Columbia's CTO, also said the vendor community likes his city's new procurement process because everything is on the record, it levels the playing field for small companies and reduces the potential for corruption.


Since December, the city has completed several multimillion dollar procurements  done online by using a combination of wikis and embedded video software. In addition, information technology projects funded by the CTO are also assigned to portfolio managers who oversee the projects and make funding determinations by grading the projects on whether they meet performance metrics.

All the city's CTO procurements and some of the city’s larger enterprise acquisitions take place on wikis. Vendors, officials and the public can view pre-solicitation videos, request for proposals, all questions and answers and award videos.

“It completely transforms the way procurement is run,” Kundra said in an interview after speaking at the 2008 Government Leadership Summit in Williamsburg, Va, sponsored by 1105 Media, the parent company of Federal Computer Week. 

Kundra said the inspiration for using open-source Web 2.0 technologies to improve transparency and efficiency came from the developing world. He added that cities around the world are coming up with new ways to meet challenges without the luxury of millions of dollars to spend on data systems.

Meanwhile, the city's office of the CTO is seeking to use social collaboration software to improve human resources and management.

Kundra has started a policy where employees had to have their own wikis and their own Web site, which includes their skill sets, talents and interests. He told the audience of mostly federal IT managers and vendors that his project managers are able to more efficiently fill positions by being able to search employees’ wikis rather than relying on traditional human resources processes. 

His office has also taken a different approach to project management, relying on six people there to serve as “portfolio managers” for different IT projects.

“They get treated like hedge fund managers, like they would in Wall Street,” he said. “They evaluate each project and they podcast on a daily basis how their cluster is performing and then we evaluate each of the projects.”

The projects are evaluated for performance, customer happiness and management on indices that comprise a mock stock market housed in the CTO's office. Kundra then makes quarterly recommendations on which projects should be kept and which should be sold or canceled.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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