Once you have determined that you will be initiating a procurement process, an important initial step is to establish project governance by forming a procurement project team. This step involves identifying the necessary individuals and their respective roles on the team, and agreeing on how decisions will be made. Project governance is an indispensable aspect of risk management. One way to structure governance is to think in terms of:
- Project sponsors
- Core project team
- Extended project team
The downloadable worksheets below can serve as an aid in identifying which individuals will serve in what roles on one or more of those teams. The worksheets are most useful for larger procurement projects, such as an IIS migration.
- Develop a working relationship with procurement staff. A key step in managing the procurement process is getting to know the procurement staff with whom you will be working. Learn what it takes to have an effective relationship with them from other health department staff who have been through a recent procurement. Remember that policies in place a year ago for another procurement project may not be the same today for yours. Developing a good relationship with the procurement staff can be of tremendous help as you get to know the procurement process, including what procurement options are available to you (see the researching procurement options section). Work with the staff early to decide if they should be on the core or extended team, or perhaps on both but at different phases of the procurement project.
- Understand the procurement decision-making authorities and process. Increasingly, IT procurements are being managed by centralized IT and/or procurement offices outside of the health department, which control how (and if) IT projects advance within the jurisdiction. Even if your procurement project is fully and even externally funded, the governance process may still require a review and approval step that could add time to the procurement process. Among the consequences of such external approval processes may be:
- Longer lead times required, with the critical need to start early, up to two years in advance. The experience of many IIS programs suggests that you should always assume that review and approval processes will take longer than stated.
- Less control over language in the solicitation document and contracts (which may or may not be consequential to you).
- The necessity to ensure boilerplate language for solicitation documents and contracts doesn’t conflict with IIS-specific language you insert.
- The need to maintain your own reminder system to ensure you begin service and maintenance contracts renewals early enough to accommodate what may be a long approval process even. Even though those central and/or procurement offices/departments/agencies may technically manage contracts, you cannot assume they will be timely in terms of renewals and other critical steps.
- The perception with central IT that your IIS is not mission-critical (for instance, compared to revenue or driver’s license systems) or their lack of understanding for the need for near-24/7, year-round availability. Have your rationale prepared for how most or all hospitals and clinics in the jurisdiction depend upon the IIS, as well as schools, nursing homes, the surveillance program, etc.
- Plan for the skills your procurement project will need. Depending upon the size and scope of your procurement, you may need skills in project management, business analysis, system design, communications and change management. These skills may be available from within your program, but would more likely come from a project management office (PMO), perhaps outside of the health department.
- Engage a project manager on your core project team. If your procurement project is to migrate to a new IIS, a project manager will likely be the single most important team member. Ideally, the project manager (which could be someone assigned to that role even if that is not their usual role) would ideally be available full-time for up to two years, and should understand IIS functionality/needs well, since they need to represent the immunization program in working with your selected vendor. For extensive guidance on IIS platform migration procurements, see PHII’s IIS Migration Toolkit.
- Note: A project manager from a project management office (PMO) or central IT will likely focus on contract administration only and may not have the time, the expertise or the mandate to directly steer and support the many daunting tasks in an IIS platform migration project. For this reason, you may still need to acquire a project manager, even if the PMO has assigned one to your project.
- Engage immunization program staff in procurement and post-procurement activities. If the IIS is to provide information and functional support across the immunization program, it is critical that other immunization program staff be engaged in defining requirements and in testing a new system, enhancements or a new module. As a general rule, engage whomever internally will rely on the system for information or functionality.
- Be prepared for the possibility that the teams may need to evolve as the procurement progresses. As you move to later phases of the activity, you may need to revisit project participation. For instance, if a formal solicitation document is used, a proposal evaluation team will need to be assembled from staff in and outside the immunization program.