Procurement as a Partner in Growth in Palm Desert, CA
The City of Palm Desert, CA, situated in the heart of the Coachella Valley, is a year away from celebrating 50 years as an incorporated community. But rather than look backwards, the City’s leadership have their eyes on the future and a shared vision of what they want to build and enable for the City’s 50,000 (and growing!) residents.
Only 3 Months To Full Implementation
Collaborative Procurement Process
Significantly Reduced Evaluation Time
With a new City Manager joining in early 2021, team turnover affecting productivity, and a renewed focus on development and infrastructure, there was a lot that needed to get done quickly. This also meant that there was a lot that needed to be procured to support the City’s initiatives.
“As Palm Desert continues to grow and evolve, so do the needs of our community. Our local supplier network helps us meet those needs, so it makes a lot of sense to make it easier for these businesses to submit bids to supply goods and services to the City,” explained City Manager Todd Hileman.
The City is a long-time customer of OpenGov, using the Budgeting & Planning Suite for annual budget development, so when Administrative Services Director Lori Carney was given the new task and role of setting up a centralized purchasing function as Purchasing Officer, she looked to OpenGov Procurement to help the City meet its goals.
A Simple, Unified Process for Procurement
Distributed purchasing models in local government require staff to become expert in RFxs, which means that they are spending time on things that are not in their skill set and not critical to their community.
Lori Carney, Director of Purchasing, is one of those strategic local government leaders who acquires new titles and expertise on a yearly basis in order to best serve her growing community. Carney saw purchasing as a distraction for staffers, at a time when they most needed to stay focused on executing strategic priorities for the City.
“A key factor in the move to modernize procurement is to free up staff time across departments,” Carney said. “Centralizing purchasing activities makes it possible for us to do that work more efficiently and strategically. As a result, non-purchasing staff can focus on more strategic projects,” she added.
She also had a vision for procurement. Carney wanted to find efficiencies beyond just bulk ordering pens. The new City Manager wanted to lower the barriers and information asymmetry for local and diverse suppliers who could (but didn’t) do business with the City.
Taking Advantage of Turnover to Improve Processes
Turnover related to the pandemic and a reorg under the new City Manager created another opportunity for the City to make a strategic shift. Palm Desert moved to strategically adopt OpenGov Procurement at a key time where long-tenured staff were leaving and people were moving between roles, including Carney. “Rather than train people on the old way of doing things, we took the opportunity to do something new together,” she explained.
What is key to the success of centralizing procurement is ensuring that the process of partnering with this new team is easy. “With OpenGov, Palm Desert found a procurement solution that was intuitive and helped us automate the solicitation development. Also, to our staff’s relief we are moving away from lengthy, in-person supplier scoring sessions toward a more streamlined, transparent, and collaborative process,” described Carney.
Carney was eager to get started with the new purchasing process after seeing OpenGov Procurement at a Fall conference. She moved quickly on the decision to adopt OpenGov Procurement since the City had success implementing the company’s Budgeting & Planning Suite. By partnering closely with the project team, Palm Desert implemented OpenGov Procurement in under three months.
“We loved the process of implementing Procurement because the team at OpenGov helped us work together across departments to get us up and running quickly — a three-month implementation in government is lightning fast,” Carney noted.
Palm Desert’s Experience Implementing OpenGov Procurement
As part of the implementation process, Carney and the OpenGov team, along with partners from across departments, took a close look at the City’s existing procedures. Through a series of collaboration sessions, they took a fresh look at purchasing workflows and asked why steps were needed and how the process could be simplified.
The OpenGov support included a former public procurement official who helped the team navigate decisions to get to a better workflow. OpenGov also brought project management skills that kept the City on track to meet their goals for a speedy implementation.
On March 1, the City closed its first RFx with OpenGov Procurement, and Carney shared that “the process worked great!” She reported that after they unsealed the bids, they were able to evaluate and collaborate in real-time from their desks, rather than take hours holed up in a conference room.
“OpenGov makes it easier for smaller, local suppliers to do business with the City of Palm Desert. We help them navigate the process with a shorter, simpler form, which lowers the bar for local businesses to understand and participate in the bidding process. For our internal teams, the solution creates a nice structure for each stage of the process from solicitation development to discussion about bids.”
For a leader like Lori Carney who moves from one strategic challenge to the next, “finding a solution like OpenGov that helps our teams operate effectively and confidently into the future is what success looks like.”
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