The $8bn Up For Bid


The state’s investment in a new IT system for buying goods and services could be a boost for small businesses.

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Oregon state agencies spend $8 billion each biennium on a range of goods and services — anything from office supplies and deer feed (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) to food and fuel (Department of Corrections and Department of Education).

Agencies put out requests for these goods and services through an antiquated IT portal where vendors download paperwork and send off applications to offer those services.

That old IT system will soon be replaced with a fully automated e-procurement platform that will make it easier for state agencies to shop for services.

The software will also allow government to better track how much it is spending, as well as what businesses it is buying from.

The new procurement system, dubbed OregonBuys Marketplace, will be phased in starting in the spring of 2020 and will be fully implemented in all 82 state agencies by the end of 2021.

The platform will give agencies more of a “consumer shopping experience,” says Brian Utley, president and CEO of Periscope Holdings, the Texas-headquartered company implementing the software.

The initiative has the support of Gov. Kate Brown, who is seeking to cut spending within state government. The amount agencies spend on procuring goods and services is close to what the state spends on K-12 education, says Liz Craig, communications director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.

“The governor saw opportunities to save money and spend those savings on other services, such as health care and education,” says Craig.

An advantage of the new system for vendors is the increased ease of seeing what the state is seeking to procure.

Under the old system, vendors have to subscribe to different areas of expertise. They receive email notifications when a state agency is looking for a service or product they can offer.

In the new system, vendors can see all of the services and goods agencies want to procure in one place. All applications to offer services can be submitted electronically, and vendors can track payments online.

An advantage for both vendors and government is the ability for agencies to be more targeted in what businesses they are buying from, such as small and minority-owned companies.

After overhauling its procurement system, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for example, was able to increase goods and services its state agencies were buying from veteran-owned businesses by 500%, says Utley.

“Agencies can be more strategic in purchasing, rather than just cutting contracts,” he says.

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