You may not know initially how your procurement will actually proceed—that is, whether through agency, state/local procurement channels, federal procurement channels, cooperative purchasing with another government entity, or some other means. Your first step is understanding the options available to you in your jurisdiction and potentially considering multiple paths to procurement until such a time as a most favorable path is identified or imposed. (Typical options are discussed under the researching procurement options section.)
Increasingly, IT procurements are being managed by centralized IT and/or procurement offices outside of the health department. Consequences of this organizational shift may include the following:
- Longer lead times may be required, with the critical need to start early, up to two years in advance.
- The health department exercises less control over language in the final solicitation document (e.g., request for proposal, request for quotes, etc.) and contracts (language which may or may not be consequential to the IIS).
- Standardized language (often referred to as “boilerplate language”) for solicitation documents and contracts may conflict with needed IIS-specific language, for instance, in the areas of security requirements.
- The need may arise to maintain a program level reminder system to ensure the program begins service and maintenance contract renewals early enough to accommodate what may be a long approval process even for renewals.
- The need may arise to maintain a “decision log” to track key decisions made over time. In the event of delays or changes in personnel and leadership, the decision log helps ensure that prior decisions do not get unnecessarily rehashed.
Mapping the entire projected timeline—determining the time required for each step, including approvals—is a critical exercise at the beginning of your procurement to see just how many months will be required. This also provides an opportunity for you to identify early where there may be roadblocks to proceeding (e.g., procedural timetables beyond your control, approval cycles that are fixed, etc.). This mapping process should also include time for staff to learn or refresh their knowledge of basic contracting principles and requirements. The timeline should be revisited and updated during the procurement process based on the current status.
Tips for successful planning:
- Information system-related procurements, whether acquiring software or creating/renewing services and maintenance contracts, generally require more lead time. Start early and get to know all the procurement phases, steps, timelines and templates you will need to work with.
- Be proactive in forming the relationships you will need to move your procurement project through all phases. These may include central procurement, central IT, legal, your executive office and others.
- Assembling the right team and selecting the optimal procurement method available to you are critical procurement planning steps.
- Use a request for information if you need to collect information on the capabilities, services or costs of suppliers, contractors or vendors.
- Having documented and precise system requirements and/or clearly defined contractor services early on can save time in the later procurement phases.
- Understand the available options; select the optimal procurement method to meet your needs.
This secondary set of interactive, editable tools is intended to serve as a supplement to help you draft more specialized project artifacts. Each tool includes a description, detailed instructions and helpful hints to help you get started. These editable resources are provided as a starting point to be leveraged and modified as needed to suit your needs.