Aurora, Ill., in Talks with Startup to Handle IT Procurement

Marketplace.city’s online portal and support team proposes to make the procurement and implementation of new technology faster and easier by allowing government to outsource the most time-consuming work.

by / July 2, 2019

Technology procurement is no one’s favorite aspect of government IT, but the city of Aurora, Ill., wants to make the process a little more painless by outsourcing it to the private sector.

According to Aurora CIO Michael Pegues last month at the Chicago Digital Government Summit, talks are underway with Marketplace.city, a company with an online portal that helps governments with various aspects of procurement, for a one-year pilot to handle IT procurement from end to end. Pegues told Government Technology he expects this could reduce average time for getting offers on requests for proposal from six months to 30 days, save staff time and yield less risky results, to the extent that Marketplace.city has the designated staff and expertise to do so.

Exact terms of the agreement are still under discussion, and Pegues said he expects to sign something in the next few weeks.

“The procurement process is a little antiquated, if you ask me. I came from the private sector. I worked for Morgan Stanley before, I’d been working in the private sector for over 25 years, and Mayor (Richard) Irvin asked me to come in and build a smart city plan for Aurora,” he said. “The benefits (of contracting with Marketplace.city) would be: faster time to survey the market; broader inclusion of companies than solicitations; ability to have an outcome-based request; clear market pricing and contract options; no up-front costs; and there’s limited resource and staff time to do research, and time is money, especially when we talk about technology.”

Under the tentative concept for the one-year pilot, when Aurora puts out a new RFP, Marketplace.city would conduct a broad market review of similar implementations, including any relevant companies in its database, and be responsible for outreach and general research. The company would then collaborate with the city on an outline to confirm they’re on the right course, then complete due diligence on everything from validations for past implementations to contract data, business models, pricing and procurement vehicles.

Pegues said the current model for procurement, whereby governments tend to simply accept the lowest bid, made more sense when IT procurement usually meant buying hardware, rather than services, which aren’t as cut and dry.

“It gets more complicated, because you have capabilities, staff, pricing, implementation, value-added services in the background. So that model, as it exists today within the municipality, is antiquated for technology,” he said. “We’re looking at digital services and solutions. I’m not buying a server anymore, I’m buying a service, and that muddies the water and makes it complicated.”

Marketplace.city President and COO Andrew Watkins said the company launched in November 2017 with the explicit purpose of “making it easier for governments to find, evaluate and ultimately buy technology products and services.” Since then the company has worked with cities, states, counties, special districts, and multi-government organizations such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials, although its agreement with Aurora would be the first to make it responsible for full, end-to-end procurement.

“We actually launched with a beta within the city of New York, with the north star statement of, ‘What would the e-commerce experience look like for the public sector,’ knowing that obviously it’s not going to look the exact same as when you and I go to Amazon,” he said. “And with evolving technology and new technology, there’s not an easy way to write detailed requirements.”

Watkins pointed out there are no shortage of companies in the gov tech market trying to make procurement easier, but in pieces: some are focused on internal workflow, like ProcureNow or Bonfire; and in Europe, BeeSmartCity is working on education and gathering case studies. But he said his company is trying to build a two-way marketplace to streamline the entire process.

“It’s creating and giving the government user that sort of information through … their ability to search and find on the website, but then also customer reporting and briefing on what’s out there, if they can’t find it all individually,” he said.

Andrew Westrope Staff Writer

Andrew Westrope is a staff writer for Government Technology. Before that, he was a reporter and editor at community newspapers for seven years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.


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