Will Illinois' New Laws Streamline Procurement?

Illinois is in the midst of modernizing its purchasing rules to help better communicate with vendors and encourage cloud adoption in state agencies.

by / October 29, 2014
State officials hope two new laws will streamline the IT procurement process in Illinois. Flickr/Jeremy Wilburn

Illinois has put two new laws on the books that state officials hope will clarify the state’s purchasing process and emphasize a move to cloud technology and shared services.

House Bill 5491
better defines the authority of Illinois chief procurement officers and requires state officials to more clearly state the requirements and specifics of what they want to purchase. HB 1040 creates a mandate where agencies must consider cloud solutions before investing in new technology. Both measures have been signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

HB 1040 went into effect in March, while HB 5491 is official as of Jan. 1, 2015.

Illinois Chief Procurement Officer Matt Brown said the changes in HB 5491 were paramount in defining user needs, which is a key element of a successful procurement. Without it, he said it can be tough to understand how to approach the marketplace and engender good competition between vendors.

“I think mechanically, the updates to the procurement code are going to help the agencies frame their needs better and get us into the marketplace quicker and on more defined terms that are in the state’s interest,” Brown said.

In addition to mandating specific requirements, HB 5491 also provides the meaning of “subcontract,” outlines when a person qualifies as a bidder or offeror under state procurement law, and defines various terms such as “bid” and “change order.”

While defining terms may seem like a minor adjustment, Illinois CIO Sean Vinck said he believes the move will have a big impact on procurement from an IT standpoint. He said many terms were used “sloppily and archaically” in public-sector entities, and hopes the changes will promote more consistency and understanding throughout the organization.

Brown agreed and added that HB 5491 should also help put state agencies and vendors on the same page more often and assist in streamlining relationships.

“The procurement code didn’t do a great job before explaining the relationship that the state requires of subcontractors or suppliers,” said Brown. “For the first time we’re defining that in the law.”

Cloud Adoption

The cloud computing policy embedded in HB 1040 requires state agencies that are in the market for new technology to take a look at cloud-based options and, when feasible, adopt them.

Illinois’ cloud program is based off the National Institute of Science and Technology’s definition of cloud, which includes three service models -- Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service – and four delivery systems: community, hybrid, public and private clouds.

Vinck believes the new approach helps bring state agencies and procurement operators together in a conversation at the point of strategic sourcing. That enables them to go to the marketplace with all options on the table.

Brown and Vinck worked jointly to develop a memorandum to give state agency CIOs and purchasing officers the basic procedures for looking at cloud technology purchases. Vinck admitted there was some ambiguity and transition time necessary to get people to consider cloud computing.

Among those concerns was the definition of “feasible” as it relates to moving to the cloud. Vinck admitted the term was intentionally left vague in HB 1040 to give state officials some discretion on how to implement the policy.

Factors such as data migration, cost and the “sunken investment” some agencies have already made in infrastructure all play a part in determining whether an agency should jump to the cloud or stand pat with what they have.

“Another consideration is the operational budgets of the state agencies are strained and cloud is a model that is calibrated to operating budgets,” Vinck said. “Some agencies have more capital resources, which is more aligned with the traditional [IT purchasing] model. So we gave ourselves some space.”

Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.