DOD continues efforts to make consolidated procurement system accessible at users' PCs

DOD continues efforts to make consolidated procurement system accessible at users' PCs

By Chris Driscoll

GCN Staff

The Defense Department is knee-deep in a project to consolidate its dozens of purchasing systems into the Standard Procurement System, a single environment accessible from desktop PCs.

About 46,000 purchasing officers are involved, and so far 12,000 of their desktop systems have come under SPS, which is being implemented by DOD's Standard Procurement Office. The office expects that 4,000 additional users will be converted to the system by year's end.

Stay the course

Adhering to an overall strategy has been crucial to DOD's progress on the project, said Gary Thurston, director of the Standard Procurement Office, which is part of the Defense Contract Management Command.

'One thing about procurement is that it reaches out and touches so many other systems,' including 100 or more logistics and finance systems, Thurston said. A consolidated procurement scheme must respond to the needs of all the department's operations.

'When the project began there were 12 major procurement systems and 15 minor ones,' Thurston said. 'The plan had to standardize procurement while letting the other systems continue as they were.'

DOD spends more than $250 million a year maintaining its procurement systems. After studying its requirements, the department in 1997 standardized on the client-server Procurement Desktop application for Microsoft Windows from American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va. DOD expects to spend $240 million on the 10-year SPS project.

Procurement Desktop creates electronic purchase requests and routes them automatically through the approval chain, carrying over the data from the requests to the purchase orders. The software also has an interface to AMS' Federal Financial System for core financial applications.

Implementing a departmentwide automated procurement app is just the first step in a three-part process, Thurston said. The next step will be a broad initiative to implement paperless contracting by January 2001. The third step will bring all of DOD under one enterprise resource planning system.

Winds of change

When the House of Representatives and NASA recently changed from multiple to unified procurement systems, it was a tough cultural change, Thurston said. 'Taking procurement officials to a desktop commercial process has been no easy task,' he said.

Building a strong team is the first and most important step in such a large-scale automation project, said Al Rogers, vice president of AMS' Standard Procurement System program. AMS designed several mechanisms for keeping its 325-member team in step.

'You have the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the Defense Logistics Agency and all the other agencies that do procurement,' Rogers said. 'Communication is absolutely essential.'

AMS maintains a Web site dedicated to the procurement project, and this month it held the first Standard Procurement System user conference.

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