Editor's note: In this series, Public CIO set forth to find answers from several of the nation’s top CIOs who have served or currently are in state, local and federal positions. These firsthand accounts are about how establishing partnerships, trusting and letting go, investing in people, and assessing situations have all been instrumental to smart decision-making.

Vennard Wright became official last November when he was named Prince George’s County CIO after serving in the post for several months. Wright has been in the IT industry for more than 15 years and previously served as tech director for former Sen. Hillary Clinton. After more than a year with the county, Wright has made strides in business operations, particularly in how procurement is done, which he says has been his smartest move so far.

Building a Procurement System

The smartest thing I’ve done in my time as CIO for Prince George’s County is to create a new contracting vehicle for the county. Called Consulting and Technical Services (CATS), this entity helps us to rapidly procure IT services by issuing requirements directly to a prequalified set of vendor partners that have been awarded the master contract.

As part of our charge as senior leaders, under County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, we have been challenged with finding new and creative ways to partner with business to encourage local economic development. I saw the modification of our original procurement process for IT services as being one way that I could immediately contribute to that goal.

One of the most obvious bottlenecks I observed when joining the government was the amount of time it took to go through the procurement process when creating a new solicitation. Consequently we experienced unnecessary challenges in meeting imminent requirements, which resulted in us issuing a high number of sole source awards and riding the contracts of neighboring jurisdictions contract with vendors for our needs. The aftermath was inferior contract delivery in some cases, and higher costs for services than we would have experienced otherwise through fair and open market competition.

To address the challenge and to formulate a strategy, I observed what neighboring local jurisdictions, including Montgomery County and the state of Maryland, were doing to rapidly procure similar services, and saw an emerging pattern.

Most were patterning their procurement process after the federal government’s indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract type, which prequalifies a number of vendors for service contracts, usually for base years and option years. This then allows them to place task orders against the basic contract for individual requirements, to which the prequalified vendors can respond, allowing the government to make award based on preset evaluation criteria, such as past performance, lowest cost, innovation, etc.

I saw this as a way to streamline our procurement process and to identify new vendor partners, and I worked with our Office of Central Services to draft the RFP that divided our need for IT services into seven high-level functional categories and issue the solicitation.

As a result, CATS for Prince George’s master contract vehicle was awarded to 74 companies on Aug. 1, 2012. To date, nine task order proposal requests have been issued and awarded -- a process that would have taken more than a year under our previous mode of operation.

Because of the hard work that we put into CATS, we’ve begun to work more efficiently and have become a much more business friendly environment, while procuring IT services more rapidly. This further solidifies the fact that our county is a great place to live, work and invest, which is the primary reason I view CATS for Prince George’s as the smartest thing I ever did.

Photo of Vennard Wright by David Kidd. See the rest of the stories in the "Smartest Thing" series