Like many counties across the country, Washington County, OR is working hard to address homelessness. In 2020, voters passed a measure to increase funding for programs related to the issue, and by the next year, the county procurement office was working hard to get that influx of cash to the right suppliers so that they could make a difference in their community.
“It’s an amazing program, and we’re doing great things, but there aren’t enough companies out there that do addiction treatment and housing services,” said Suzi Fulcher, the Procurement Manager at Washington County. “Trying to build capacity for the ones that do that, and trying to help the ones that want to is very time consuming.”
As this new workload was building back in 2020, Fulcher and her team were still using a mostly paper procurement system. With OpenGov Procurement, the County can get funding to vendors to fight homelessness faster, even though it’s short-staffed.
“The greatest benefit I’ve seen from OpenGov Procurement is being able to do more with the same amount of people, without adding the kind of strain that burns people out and leads to turnover.”
Suzi Fulcher, Procurement Manager, Washington County, OR
100% Online Evaluation Increases Equity
Transparent Communication with Suppliers
Streamlines Solicitation Development to Assist with Short Staffing
An Excess of Paperwork
The paper system came with a lot of headaches. Sometimes, Fulcher and her team were tracking as many as 100 questions to answer manually in a spreadsheet. There was also no set page limit for replies, so some suppliers were sending in 500-page binders. “It just wasn’t secure,” Fulcher says. “People are carrying them around, and who knows where they’re leaving them?”
During the evaluation process, some folks were printing out spreadsheets, then writing in their comments by hand, and handing that document back to the procurement department. And often, when procurement would share templates with other departments, instead of just filling in the scope of work for a project, per instructions, they would fill out the whole thing, which was more work than they needed to be doing.
Better Transparency for Vendors
Since Washington County implemented OpenGov Procurement in 2021, Fulcher’s team has been able to save a lot of time, and improve the experience for its suppliers.
“The question and answer piece has been amazing. I think that may give suppliers a higher level of confidence because it’s all right there. It’s not I sent this email into procurement, and who knows if it got answered?”
The improved transparency has also been helpful for would-be vendors who have submitted unsuccessful proposals. They can easily compare their proposal to the one that was ultimately selected without having to request the information, which saves time for the procurement department.
OpenGov Procurement has also given Fulcher more insights into how the evaluation process is going. “The nice thing about digital, is now I can see how evaluators are doing,” she says. “With paper, I didn’t know whether they’d cracked the book yet or not.” Now, if there’s an evaluation meeting coming up, Fulcher can easily send reminders to those she knows haven’t started looking at applications yet, keeping evaluators on track, and the process moving.
Tackling an Intractable Problem
Not only is Washington County devoting new funding to addressing homelessness, its housing department has also doubled in size in the last two years.
“They can’t hire fast enough to keep people doing the work that they need to do, but it’s a trickle-down effect,” Fulcher says. “There’s more of them, so they’re generating more contracts, more RFPs, and more Notices of Funding Opportunities.”
That means that procurement is having to do a lot more, with the same amount of folks in the department. For Fulcher, the greatest benefit of the time savings she’s gained from OpenGov’s Procurement system is being able to do more with the same amount of people, without adding the kind of strain that burns people out and leads to turnover.
Aside from efficiencies within the product, Fulcher has enjoyed working with the OpenGov team.
“Their customer service is amazing. They truly are there for you,” she said.
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