Procurement: Kansas City MO Story

Kathy Garman and Cedric Rowan, KCMO employees working with procurement issues (11/15), provided most of the information and insights into new ways Kansas City is acquiring technology to enable it to develop into a leading 21st century smart city.

City policy in Kansas City MO is very sensitive to the “digital divide” issue.    The city aims to include as many citizens as possible in smart city initiatives and to spread digital literacy in the population.  With the laying of Google Fiber in 2012, the first city in the USA to get Google Fiber, the community took a giant step forward to narrow the digital divide.

“Digital Divide” Concern

Several articles reflect the city’s concern about the “digital divide”:

Kansas City:  Superfast internet and a digital divide.
What is the digital divide?
Digital inclusion in KCMO


The success of this project also whetted the appetite of the city for more digital enhancing investments.  KCMO established the first “smart cities” advisory board in the USA, according to Code for America.   The city’s former tech director, Mark Headd, built on the city’s enthusiasm for developing “smart city” applications among the city’s tech entrepreneurs by advertising tech related procurement bids on GitHub .  The foundation of the city’s “smart city” culture and identity was launched.

This overarching citywide “digital divide” concern has shaped their approach to the city’s digitally related capital investments going forward.  To translate their policy goals into actions, the city helped establish an organization, Think Big Partners.  ThinkBig  helps companies grow faster, smarter and more efficiently through its network of in-house services, community members and national partners. It offers an accelerator for technology startups.

To better connect procurement opportunities in the city to businesses in the city, the city established Living Lab  a cooperation between Cisco and Connected Community and with ThinkBig.  The bold mission:  “create a solutions-based technology road map that aligns financial return on investment, social responsibility and citizen benefit.  Using state-of-the-art internet of things technologies designed to modernize cities, lower costs and deliver long term value, Kansas City will become one of the world’s smartest and connected cities.”  The result, so far, is a new culture of civic innovation.” The best digital cities have developed a mature infrastructure that affords city leaders a chance to experiment with forward-thinking technology projects”, according to an article in that announced Kansas City, MO as one of the top winners in their 2015 Digital Cities survey.

This matrix of organizations, tech savvy staffers and history of successes now gives the city the muscle and the platform to make its “smart city” goals more easily implemented.

To further build this culture and a local tech capacity,  the city, probably through Living Lab, will actively seek out innovative companies, work to keep the private sector tech community aware of the short and long term technology interests of the city, describing the problems and opportunities they see ahead.  The city is developing an “in residence” program which will move beyond “hackathons” and bring in local tech companies for a six to twelve week period to work on digital solutions to particular problems.  This looks like Kansas City’s version of the Code for America fellowship program.

One of the challenges in this program is to have a “broker” representing the interests of the city and bringing together private sector solution opportunities to work with city departments with problems.  The challenge:  some city departments have problems that could lend themselves to digital solutions but department staff may not have the confidence in digital literacy or the time to work with private sector tech staff.  The city recognizes this challenge and will provide brokers who know, respect and work well with department heads and can help bridge the department to a good working relationship with the private sector tech companies.  This internal organizational effort is further strengthened by the strong commitment from the city manager to making it a success.

Expanding Pool of Vendors

In an effort to reinforce these new and evolving organizational structures, in 2014 the city signed a $5.8 MM contract  to replace its aging legacy “permitting” software with Tyler’s EnerGov® planning, permitting and licensing software solution.  Kansas City’s legacy permitting system had become difficult to support, maintain and configure. Rather than trying to upgrade its legacy system, the city conducted a competitive review to find a modern and fully integrated solution.  Implementation has included weekly meetings to design a profile reflecting user perspectives across the city platform.

Efforts like Living Labs and the “in residence” program are expected to significantly expand the pool of capable “smart city” vendors available to Kansas City.  The Procurement Office is also making an effort to expand the pool of bidders.  They actively encourage local companies to come in, get familiar with city needs and procedures and fill out an on line form which uses the NIGP commodity/ service class code system, to expand the supplier database .  They also use DemandStar (Onvia)  bid posting software.

The new permitting process is expected to reduce unnecessary barriers to participation by new or non-traditional vendors.  Bidders responding to solicitations are informally reviewed by the departments sponsoring the project and will formally go to the city’s Office of Procurement.  The form used by this department (ITD Technology Request Form) is attached at the end of this section.

Recently the city has passed an ordinance at the suggestion of Chief Data Officer Eric Roche.  The intent is to provide an official, dedicated digitally literate staff person in every department to help think how problems the department faces might be amenable to “smart” digitally enhanced solutions.

“311” Program

This internal departmental capacity building comes just in time.  Even before Google started laying fiber, Kansas City launched (Dec. 2011) a “311” program, KCStatKCStat: 311 focused on the areas the city received the most public complaints about: Street Maintenance, Water Line Maintenance, Water Billing/Customer Service, Code Enforcement and Animal Control.  Within two years, 2013, the city expanded the program and extended the data collection using the call data to shape the City Council’s 5 year Strategic Priorities which then were fed into the Citywide Business Plan.  Now, in 2015, the city publicizes the measurement indicators and outcomes, and has open public meetings KCStat sessions on the first Tuesday of each month to review data and progress.  Goals are set for a year forward and progress is measured publicly through the year.

Cedric Rowan, Procurement Office, says the city charter specifies that IT requests come through departments to the IT department for review and then to the Procurement Office using the ITD Technology Request Form.  Common criteria for screening proposals include “open standards”, not proprietary software, an effort to centralize acquisition and avoidance of too much customization.  The city ordinance has a $150K threshold for more rigorous bidding requirements.  Another threshold is at $113MM.   Any purchase above $2K still requires bid quotes.

The Procurement Office welcomes the use of new procurement software, RFP365 which is purported to help cities assess the comparability of complex bids.  Rowan reports that in a recent bid for a CMS type of software, the departments used RFP365 and were happy that the digital version of the software matched the paper version of the process they already knew.

City Website:
Population:  459,787  (2010)
Form of Government:  City Manager



ITD Technology Request Form (used by Kansas City MO in procurement)

Requesting Department Information

Department:  FIRE Priority:   __X_ High    ƒ Medium     ƒ Low
Person Submitting/Contact:   Craig Compton Date of Request  Requested Completion Date 10-03-2015
Contact’s Phone Number:  300-8817 Contact’s E-Mail Address:


Project Approver/Sponsor: _ Help Desk Ticket Number: ___

Request Description (Please be specific.)

ITD Request: HP Server and TriTech software

Quantity: 1

Source of Funding: Fire

Purpose:  HP Server and TriTech software for TriTech Station Alerting Sever and Interface for DR Site.


Type of Request

Replacement: Expansion:   1
Modification: ________________________________________ New Implementation:


Funding Source: Fire


Sole Source:     qYes        qNo
Cost  $ 5,991.14 Costs: Startup________Annual:______________
Hardware: $3,255.14






Included in Costs: Install and config for CAD Interface

Additional Costs:________________________

Associated/Affected Applications (if any—i.e. links to current applications such as PeopleSoft, etc.)

TriTech CAD

High Level Requirements (Bulleted list)
Additional Information (Please provide any additional information such as hardware requirements, vendor information, etc.).
 Quote from TriTech and SHI have been attached.

Expected Results or Outcomes

Division Recommendation (include capacity and availability)

Division:  qES    qEIM     qCRM


Project: ¨               Operations:¨                         Hold:¨                         Deny:¨


Form Completed by:  Craig Compton                                          Date: 09/30/15

Executive Staff Approval:______________________________Date:_______________________________



Interview written by Barbara Thornton for Smart Cities Council, 11/2015

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