Procurement: Philadelphia PA Story

Nick Susi, provided the background information for this story.  Nick previously worked in the Philadelphia Office of Information and Technology (OIT) and now works in the Procurement Dept., bringing with him to procurement a greater than usual appreciation for the complexities of buying 21st century ICT and digitally enhanced hardware and infrastructure using the traditional RFP process. 

Like many larger cities, Philadelphia  wants to nurture and grow its tech entrepreneur community.

To reach out to the vendor community, expand the pool of potential bidders and support their local tech businesses, the OIT starts the pre-procurement path with a “Request for Information” to find out what the local vendor community can do in relation to the problem or project the city wants to address.  This meeting with vendors typically yields about eight or nine potential bidders.philadelphia-city-center 630x417

The city also has four “pre-certified” contractors, including Oracle, that handle standard license renewals, office automation equipment, etc.  When a procurement project for routine equipment of software purchases arises, these “pre-certified” contractors are sent a request for a quote.  The lowest bidder usually wins the contract.  Philadelphia makes extensive use of cooperative contracting through large contracting alliances for these more routine purchases.  Contracting alliances include:  WSCA (Western State Contracting Alliance), NJPA (National  Joint Powers Alliance), PEPPM (Technology Bidding & Purchasing Program), as well as through the state of Pennsylvania and in cooperation with other US communities.

The city recruits new vendors through its annual city government – vendor forum where the city outlines its technology related plans for the coming year or two.  For example, the decision to move to cloud computing was discussed at this forum.

The city’s Tech Review Board (TRB) is a key part of the pre-procurement process.  When a city staffer develops a basic framework describing a new project, that description goes to the TRB for review.  In 2009 the Dept. of Public Property decided to move the paper processing of work orders to a consolidated digital process.  The city’s Tech Review Board screened the departmental request using general criteria such as avoiding duplication of software, determination of functionality, interoperability with related departmental software, etc.

When a procurement category comes up that doesn’t already exist and needs a fast turnaround, the city can move.  Abandoned buildings in the city emerged as a politically important health and safety issue.  The city wanted to get bids out quickly for demolition contractors.  The city convened a meeting of stakeholders, city IT and procurement staff, including the separately elected city comptroller, related department heads, law and finance departments and demolition vendors.  Using “Google Forms” they developed simple mobile bidding options, instead of using the traditional paper based bidding process.   Taking this step required the group to think about issues like bidding collusion, protecting small businesses, keeping bid numbers private and other issues that are fundamental in city policy or bidding law.  Still, they all agreed on a significant step forward changing the bid process.

Under the former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia, Mark Headd, one of the first municipal Chief Data Officers in the United States, the city recruited new technology vendors through GitHub.  While innovative, that process does not appear to still be in use.

The City    does have a Vendor’s Guide .  The Office of Innovation and Technology has a 12 person team of professionals

City Website:
Population:  1,526,006 (2014 est.)
Form of Government:  Mayor

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