Maine OIT's Step-by-Step Procurement Process

The goal of the sessions was to reduce the annual rework and the unnecessary hour by 75 percent within the next year and a half.

by / April 3, 2009

Photo: Leigh Wilkinson, Maine OIT Staff Writer

Used with permission from the Maine Office of Information Technology

Over a period of nine days and multiple sessions, Office of Information Technology (OIT) staff along with representatives from the Division of Purchases met to discuss the current OIT procurement process. The sessions were facilitated by, Nancy Forrester.

The goals for these sessions were to:

  • Improve speed of procurement cycles -- we needed to be more responsive to customer needs both in speed and flexibility.
  • Improve work cycle time from defining an order through receiving an order and paying the bill.
  • Improve customer satisfaction with our timeliness and effectiveness in managing their PC equipment and software needs.

The process followed was:

Step 1: define the current process by creating a detailed process map

Step 2: complete an examination of procurement best practices across the IT industry

Step 3: look for root causes in the process that produce delays and non-value added activities.

Step 4: redesign the process to increase effectiveness and improve customer satisfaction.

After completing each step the group presented their results to the sponsors; key stakeholders from OIT and Purchases. Each presentation ended with the stakeholder's group approval to proceed to the next step in the project.

In the final presentation, the target was defined as "Reduce the annual rework and the unnecessary hours by 3,261 (75 percent) within 1.5 years."

"Root Cause Problem Analysis" led to the discovery of four 'Critical Failure Factors' (CFF) that need to be resolved in order to reach the process improvement target.

These CFF factors and suggested solutions are:

  • Excessive approval process - the process has too many approval layers which cause delays between each step. The suggested solutions include removing or modifying some approval steps and supplying a procurement card to the build center for some critical purchases.
  • Lack of published and supported standards for assessment and procurement of IT related items and services - Technicians spend significant time negotiating with customers and with each other due to the lack of published standards for: assessing IT equipment needs at the customer level; defined technical specifications and usability for equipment for most common customer needs; a list of supported and authorized standard software; a defined process for technicians to use to assess customer needs; an exception process to manage special customer needs or requirements outside of approved standards.
  • Cumbersome work flow systems - there is a need to identify delay cycles, reduce unnecessary tasks like excessive copying of billing and other documentation.
  • Ineffective partnerships with vendors specific to the procurement process - many delays are caused by multiple shipments, out of stocks or delayed response times, and a lengthy process of creating quotes, approvals, and order cycles that can take as much as 3 months to complete.

A steering committee was created to manage the improvement project team and support the implementation. The project team began the work of completing the list of solutions suggested with the assistance of the Project Management Office (PMO) in organizing and tracking activity.

At this point we have completed the following elements:

CFF 1: Inadequate approval process - approvals have been streamlined and formalized to speed up the completion of orders. The use of the procurement card process for special orders has been established.

CFF 2: Lack of published and supported standards for assessment and procurement of IT related items and services -

  • Software standards are being created by a group comprised of the Desktop Technology group, representatives of several large agencies, and OIT security. A list
  • will be published in our OIT service catalog April to provide an opportunity for a wider group of state employees to comment.
  • To ensure that all assessments are managed equitably and efficiently, the Call Center Help Desk and Service Technicians have established a common technical assessment process. The Desktop Technology Management team is currently reviewing the draft of the exception process for special needs.
  • Standards and processes for the Build Center are still being developed, although significant progress has already been made.
  • Desktop and laptop specifications/standards were arrived at by using the information gathered when crafting the RFP to secure PCs for state government.
  • The OIT Service Catalog is posted on the internet and updated frequently when new standards are defined.

CFF 3: Cumbersome work flow systems - Significant work has been done in this area of procurement by defining how billing and invoices are handled within the OIT. We are also working in partnership with central purchasing management to define best methods for managing the paper flow of invoices and other procurement paperwork.

CFF 4: Ineffective partnerships with vendors specific to the procurement process. We have identified key vendors and established a regular meeting schedule to insure that we maintain regular discussions about improving our processes for mutual benefits. We are in the process of defining some metrics regarding service quality for future discussions.

Significant improvement has been noticed in many of the cumbersome work behaviors of the past. Ordering cycles to vendors has been increased with more frequent but smaller orders being placed which has smoothed the receiving cycles to help assure a steady flow of new equipment in a more just in time fashion. We have become more flexible in dealing with special or urgent order requests by using procurement cards to purchase unique items and to speed delivery. We have become more consistent in our approach to evaluating IT needs and our recommendations for PC equipment through the use of a standardized check list and process.

We will continue to define standards, remove non-value activity from work process flows and refine our vendor relationships to improve cycle times from order to delivery. The group is committed to completing these tasks and continues to meet monthly with the steering committee to review our progress.

Leigh Wilkinson Maine OIT Staff Writer