December 9, 2012 By Dan Lohrmann
Ever since the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) was formed in the October 1993 by the state purchasing directors from fifteen states, governments have been saving millions of dollars through cooperative purchasing. By working together on developing contracts with a lead state, the savings can be huge. Joint purchases, on items such as laptop and desktop computers and much more, can ultimately save time and resources by working together with other like-minded government officials from around the country.
Many of these excellent contracting relationships and procurement opportunities have developed over the years at meetings held by the National Association of Purchasing Officers (NASPO). WSCA is now used by many states besides the initial fifteen members. For example, this chart shows over 50% savings on desktop PCs when you use the discounts from the “Premium Savings Packages” available to certain WSCA-participating states from numerous vendors.
And while you are looking at these charts and adding up the savings possibilities, you will see a change in the names that resemble a marriage. That’s right, the graphics for “WSCA” have now become “WSCA/NASPO” on most of their websites. In fact, this development was explained to me this week when I was on a teleconference which discussed multi-state opportunities to save money and be more efficient in our contracting work.
A Huge Infrastructure Opportunity
So why bring up this contracting topic in an infrastructure blog? Because evaulatings vendors and contracts, developing statements of work (SOWs), and managing provisions is a big part of what we do and how well we do it!
On topics ranging from smartphones, byod and mobile device management to cloud computing to consolidating data centers, contracts wording is vital. Of course, we all want to get the best deal possible, while at the same time taking advantage of the experiences of those who have gone before us. There is certainly wisdom with a multitude of advisors, and working with other states to understand their requirements is usually a best practice.
In addition, more and more states are working to provide shared technology services across traditional government boundaries. As we heard at the National Association of Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference in October, states are jointly offering services in such areas as cybersecurity, disaster recovery, GIS and more.
What Can You Do Now?
My understanding is that details for specific contracts still need to be worked out with WSCA/NASPO on a case by case basis. This fact sheet on their cooperative purchasing services is a great place to start to learn more about ways to engage WSCA.
Additionally, here is some wording from their FAQ website, if your state has chosen not to participate so far:
“WHAT IF MY HOME STATE HAS CHOSEN NOT TO PARTICIPATE, BUT WE WANT TO USE A WSCA CONTRACT? That question is not as easy to answer. Each state and governmental entity has different statutory, legal and procedural requirements. WSCA contracts are solicited to allow the broadest possible participation, but the real answer depends on your individual legal and procedural requirements. You should check with the Lead State contact listed on the contract page or contact Paul Stembler (contact information below) if you have questions.”
In conclusion, times are changing, and state procurement practices are changing as well. Partnering with WSCA/NASPO on large contracts (and even on some small purchases) makes a lot of sense. Hopefully, the joint buying power of all of the states can make a substantial difference and enable even better products and services to be delivered at lower prices moving forward.
Just as important, CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, IT Directors and other technology professionals need to be aware of what is going on around the country in regards to contract terms and conditions, the latest security and privacy wording in contracts, provisions for getting in (and out) of the cloud and how we can work together to influence vendor product and service roadmaps.
Over the years, we have often heard sales executives from major corporations ask me: Have you looked at what WSCA has to offer?
Now we can answer: I think you mean the cooperative purchasing arm of NASPO. And yes, we’ll give them a call.
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