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eProcurement Insights from Palmdale Water District’s Scott Rogers

5 ways modern procurement technology is changing the game for special districts

Scott Rogers wears many hats. Despite having the official title of Engineering Manager for Palmdale Water District (PWD), Scott’s purview of responsibilities encompasses overseeing capital improvement projects like water pipeline replacements, facility upgrades, new wells, developer projects, exploring water supply alternatives, and, perhaps most remarkably, managing PWD’s procurement process. 

With more than 2,000 special districts in California, the challenges Scott faces in managing the procurement process are not unique to PWD. Special districts are tasked with some of the most critical and demanding needs of the communities they serve and often do so with limited resources and funding. As is the case with PWD, many special districts do not have a department solely dedicated to procurement, so the regular responsibilities of a procurement office often fall on staff members, like Scott, whose primary function exists outside the realm of purchasing goods and services. 

While revenue from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund is allowed to be transferred to special districts under the guidelines of the American Rescue Plan Act, the details of this funding plan are still being developed between the CSDA and the State Department of Finance, with clear guidance expected to be released shortly after September 1. However, the projected $2.4 billion revenue deficit for California special districts by the end of 2021 still carries much uncertainty for special district leaders like Scott. Operating on limited budgets and tasked with important responsibilities, special districts hamstrung by inefficient and costly procurement processes face challenges that many other government entities do not. Perhaps, now more than ever, special districts are realizing the need for modern technology to more efficiently and practically manage the procurement process in a transparent, compliant, collaborative, and cost-effective manner.

Scott and PWD are ahead of the curve. They updated to OpenGov Procurement, a leading cloud procurement solution, in early 2020. When asked to describe the procurement process when he first joined PWD in 2019, Scott chuckles at the recollection, saying, “It was so paper-based I could not believe it.” Much of the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes work was done manually and on paper outside of the District’s legacy software. This resulted in Scott and his staff spending hours creating solicitations, scanning contractual documents, uploading them to the website as PDFs, and mailing out hard copies to prospective bidders. In addition, the cost to publish public notices in the local newspaper was roughly $10,000 per bid opportunity. Now, they are able to use a short description with a URL to the OpenGov Procurement landing page this costs about $400.

After two months overseeing PWD’s procurement operations and experiencing these challenges firsthand, Scott quickly sought to find a new solution to address these inefficiencies. The solution Scott selected was OpenGov Procurement, which he described as “night and day above the rest of its competitors.” 

Scott and his team used the following five decision criteria, which demonstrate the ways modern technology is changing the game for procurement leaders in special districts:

1. Keeping it simple

OpenGov Procurement provides guided templates, online training, and intuitive workflows that make the solicitation development and sourcing experience more enjoyable and less prone to errors. Simplicity was critical for Scott, his staff, and for the vendors participating in competitive bidding opportunities. If there are too many “hoops for vendors to jump through,” as Scott explains it, they will not bid on your project. Prior to adopting OpenGov Procurement, Scott received two to four bid responses for a pipeline replacement project. After implementing the new solution, Scott updated the bid for the project and received seven or eight responses.

2. Enabling collaboration through cloud solutions

Another key consideration for Scott was a cloud solution. Having a centralized procurement system in the cloud unlocked unprecedented levels of collaboration for Scott and other PWD departments. Instead of trying to manage version control of Word documents and paper forms, staff members easily comment on solicitation drafts, tag and notify other people across departments for input and feedback, and establish an easy-to-understand review and approval process before finalizing solicitations for publication. This process has encouraged more input and accountability between staff members, ensuring that each published solicitation has appropriate buy-in from all stakeholders.

3. Streamlining bid development and publication

The ability to quickly develop and issue bids and collect vendor responses is crucial to operating effectively with a limited staff and budget. With OpenGov Procurement, Scott and his team were able to cut down the time it took to issue solicitations from one week to just 15 minutes. This dramatic time savings allows staff to focus on more strategic initiatives and projects that serve the community. Additionally, Scott and his team no longer have to allocate thousands of dollars to issue a single bid. That money can instead be reallocated for the purchase of goods and services critical to the needs of the community.

4. Establishing compliance every step of the way

Scott explains that ensuring compliance with local ordinances and contracting laws was difficult to manage via traditional public purchase methods. Following changes to the prevailing wage law, utilizing contractors with up-to-date licenses and confirming valid insurance policies from participating vendors became a heavy burden for PWD. In the solicitation development process, it became difficult for staff members to maintain and enforce the use of standardized contract documentation. OpenGov Procurement alleviated these problems, offering a clear way to ensure compliance and establish appropriate controls over the purchasing and contract development lifecycle.

5. Partnering with a vendor who listens

Reflecting on his customer experience, Scott shares that the key differentiator between OpenGov Procurement and other vendors is the team behind the software. He cites one example of recommending a new feature and seeing it in the platform two months later. “That’s something I’ve been really happy about,” says Scott. “I think that’s exactly what customers, especially on the public side, really want.” By partnering with a vendor who not only listens to feedback but uses it to actively improve the platform, customers receive a solution that continually delivers feature enhancements focused on improving the user experience.
OpenGov is the leader in cloud-based solutions for government. The OpenGov Cloud™ is the only integrated cloud solution for budgeting, performance, communications and reporting. This multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) solution connects stakeholders to the budget process, engages them for real-time feedback, accurately forecasts personnel costs, and integrates with key government systems, resulting in improved outcomes, enhanced internal efficiencies, and more time for strategic