Know more. Pay less. Use government data to effortlessly and comprehensively research prices, products and vendors.

ARTICLE | Mar 14, 2016
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North Miami Beach is a suburban city in Miami-Dade County, Florida, one of more than 89,000 local, state, and federal agencies across the nation. The vast majority of these agencies are disconnected from each other when it comes to purchasing data – due to varying processes/procedures and array of different I.T. systems within each agency. North Miami Beach has learned how to tackle this problem by using a searchable government procurement database. Brian O’Connor, former Chief Procurement Officer for North Miami Beach, needed to purchase fireproof theater curtains. “I needed to know who sold them, who had bought them, and what I should expect the price to be,” said O’Connor. “Google doesn't give you this data, but I was able to find a qualified vendor in just a few clicks with SmartSearch.”

The searchable database of government purchasing gave North Miami Beach access to over 280 million government purchase orders. “We [searched the database] when we needed to acquire a ‘clean agent in-cabinet fire suppression.’  We searched for purchase orders and found that a vendor was offering the same product to another agency at a lower price than they were quoting us,” said O'Connor.

“The ability to see what other agencies are paying gives us great leverage in our purchasing. In the case of fire suppression, we were able to save 40% (more than $60,000) on a major purchase just by having access to the right data.” Government agencies have access to procurement tools, such as the NIGP listserv, but these are often time-intensive and can take significant time to receive responses. “If I use these other tools, I've got work to do. I have to create an email or post something to a listserv, then wait for responses, then evaluate and filter the responses. I have to hope that my peers in the procurement field are available to respond in a timely manner,” said O’Connor.

Government purchasing data is not just about finding the best price, but about finding the best value, as well as saving time and resources in the process. “The database allows us to find qualified vendors and reach out to exactly the right resources. Finding qualified vendors is a common challenge, but with the patented procurement database, you can get connected to thousands of other agencies and explore all possible avenues for contracts,” said O’Connor.

“We find qualified vendors, locate contract piggybacking opportunities, and enable our end users to track down and perform due diligence for themselves. This is very useful for decentralized agencies. The data allows us to aggregate our purchasing power while still maintaining the ability for end users to make informed, intelligent purchasing decisions on their own for smaller ticket items.” Speed is certainly a benefit of a user-friendly, searchable database. “The world has become like a microwave oven: instant, get it done now, 30 seconds. Instantaneous information is very valuable.”

At the same time, in another part of the country, they have a different set of unique circumstances to contend with. Rockland County is located approximately 15 miles northwest of Manhattan. While the county may be outside the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the Rockland County government faces a widespread geographical challenge: government agencies pay more for products and services in the northeast than in most other areas of the country. Furthermore, Rockland County faced a problem that plagues most of the nation's local, state, and federal agencies: the vast majority of them do not share purchasing data. The result? Most government purchases are made at a higher price than the best available government rate.  Rockland County used the searchable procurement database to tackle this challenge, and saved almost $40,000 in a single transaction.

“We haven't begun to scratch the surface with this database. They've helped us find potential bidders, let us see other organizations that have purchased what we're looking for, and made it possible for us to benchmark pricing for same or similar products,” said Paul Brennan, Director of Purchasing for Rockland County, New York. “The data gives us more negotiating leverage with every purchase.”

Government procurement professionals are driven to seek out the best value, but data silos hinder their ability to consistently succeed. “This database helps you confirm whether the price you've received is reasonable. If it's not, you have the data you need to find who can deliver at a better price,” said Brennan. Government agencies are not wild about sole-source contracts, but sometimes it is the only way. Or is it? “We’ve actually used the database to verify a sole-source claim. It's easy to search for anything you can imagine, and we've actually had a case where a sole-source turned out to not be the only available or even the best priced source,” said Brennan. “I like being able to cast a wide net across the nation and see for myself where the best deals are hiding.”

Paul Brennan is a veteran of government procurement and has found numerous benefits. “We were looking for some highway equipment. Specifically, we needed Ferguson pavement rollers. When we compared the bids we received to the database, we saw we were being charged $15-19k more than agencies around the country were paying. We opened it up for bid again at what we thought was the right price, but we ran into distributor territorial problems.  The lower prices we found were in other territories that were unable to sell to us,” said Brennan. “However, SmartSearch helped us track down existing contracts, and we found one in Texas we could piggyback on at a significant savings, nearly $20,000 per unit.”

If your agency is facing any of these challenges or you are interested in learning more, SmartProcure can provide you a free no obligation review of your purchasing. To see how SmartProcure can help save your agency time and money on your purchases click here!

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