E-procurement tools automate purchasing cycle
Finding the right technology to improve agency operations and still comply with government requirements is hard enough. Then there’s procurement, a process that demands increased efficiency and management as agencies weather budget reductions.
BidSync, a company that helps state and local public sector agencies automate, consolidate and centralize acquisition, has added two new products to its e-procurement suite, creating a cloud-based solution that automates every phase of the purchasing cycle.
The products, BidSync Request and BidSync Purchase, were released last month. Request streamlines and automates the gathering of requirements and specifications to create procurement requests that comply with agency regulations, while Purchase helps manage purchase orders and facilitates cost savings by providing visibility into how agencies are spending taxpayer money.
“The core function in procurement really should be to save money,” said Adam Magalei, e-procurement product manager at BidSync.
Request enables the creation, administration and tracking of procurement requests using wizards that walk users through the process. It also has a collaboration feature that lets stakeholders communicate via instant messaging.
“Request is a collaborative tool that allows requests to be scoped, formulated, researched, worked on until they’re actually ready to be funneled down to the procurement group so that they’re better able to seamlessly take that request into the sourcing technology, they’re able to make an award out of that sourcing technology and then take it right into the contract management solution where the contract is going to live,” Magalei said.
Users can set up formal requests for proposals or simpler requests for information. Request also includes a document management capability by which users compile statements of work, legal documents or risk analyses that would need to be done before formal solicitation.
“By the time that request gets over to the procurement function, everyone knows what needs to be procured, what all the specifications are, what any contractual stipulations might exist,” Magalei said.
The system also catalogs line item information and pricing, creating a resource that can be reused once a contract is awarded. Buyers can search the catalog and if the product is in there, they can pull it down into Request and send it to Purchase, which automatically converts requests into purchase orders and sends them to vendors.
BidSync has a network of 800,000 vendors in its bid-notification network, and companies have their own BidSync accounts so everything takes place in the same environment.
The vendors receive instant notifications of new solicitations and submit responses via BidSync. Agencies in turn can run tabulations to compare vendors and set up evaluation committees, Magalei said.
Purchase is the first cloud-based purchase-to-pay tool that supports purchase order management, e-catalog management, blanket order release creation, receiving, invoice matching and payment, according to BidSync. It allows for quick access to receipts and payment status, again letting buyers and sellers work in the same online platform.
Additionally, it alerts users when they’re about to exceed spending limits.
To use BidSync, agencies and vendors need only an Internet connection. It works with any browser, but there is no mobile platform.
Although no federal agencies use BidSync, users include states, such as California, and municipalities among its 1,000-plus e-procurement customers.
The Davis School District in Davis County, Utah, has been using BidSync exclusively since 2005. “It has made our lives easier and we have noticed that we have a lot more competition and that relates to lower prices,” said Joan Tuttle, the school district’s senior buyer.
Time savings is another benefit, she said. “The amount of time we used to spend sending out bids via the Postal Service and the money we spent on postage alone was huge,” Tuttle said. “We now spend our time on other items and the savings on the postage has been significant.”
Because BidSync is cloud-based, updates or new releases are provided to all customers rather than to individuals, Magalei said. However, agencies can maintain their functionality configurations by setting preferences.
The next step in the company’s 18-month push to revamp its public-sector strategy is to put all the data the new products are generating about vendors, spending and commodities into a usable format. Agencies can then use the information to perform granular analysis into their procurement functions, he added.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.