for," according to Bill Kilmartin, vice president of AMS. "In other words, solicitation development, bid distribution, bid response, bid evaluation, contract formulation, strategic sourcing, auctioning and reverse auctioning."

Another key eVA feature is a data warehouse designed to track vendor registration, catalog purchases, bid distribution, bid receipt and spending patterns. This information is shared with suppliers. "Many of the best practices indicate that if you knew what peoples buying habits tend to be, you would be in a position to leverage that knowledge," Kilmartin said. "The problem previously was that purchasing entities couldnt really tell who was buying what."

Smooth Rollout

Like Virginia, Wichita sent out feelers and educated vendors about the citys e-procurement plans. When it came time for the Wichita systems August rollout, the city and its suppliers were on the same page.

A couple of mass mailings were sent to signal the coming of e-procurement and to advise vendors that they would be receiving a secure login name and a password to sign up. Vendors that werent ready to submit online bids could use a manual process initially, but they must convert to e-procurement in the near future.

"It has worked out very well," said Melinda Walker, Wichitas purchasing manager. "The one true benefit that we have is that the vendors now have the ability to see all bids and all proposals at one place. Before, we had different departments doing their own proposals. Its a communication tool for the vendors to show, Here are all the bids the city does and here are all the proposals."

Wichita, like Virginia, uses the National Institute of Government Purchasing commodity codes to allow suppliers to designate which goods or services they want to bid on and be notified of. And the city charges no additional fees for using the system.

"From a purchasing standpoint, it makes sure everybody has a chance to bid on our projects and can see them out there," Walker said. "We do the legal advertisements in the paper and all that, but then you have to read the newspaper and figure out where its at."

Wichita purchased the system from KPMG Consulting in Chicago after having seen a demonstration at a user conference. "We were one of the first cities to do this," Walker said. "Everybody else was looking at it but nobody had it. Were kind of an innovative city and we dont wait around to see what other people are doing. We saw the idea and thought it was a good idea and went with it."

Walker said that the system cost about $300,000 to implement and that the city has already seen tangible benefits. "The time that it takes to prepare a bid has been reduced, and it has cut our mailing costs, our copying charges and other support costs nearly in half."

The city plans to have direct deposit in place by July and sees online catalogs as the next step. "What we have is great, but were looking at people putting their catalogs online as the next deal," Walker said. "Were happy with what weve got but were looking to move forward."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor