Technology solutions via purchasing cooperatives: A home run for public agency procurement
In the age of a national Digital Government initiative and perpetually lean budgets, many public and non-profit agencies are taking a fresh look at how they procure new technology. A solutions-based approach leveraging the power of purchasing cooperatives gives agencies the ability to streamline the procurement process and focus on making a smart investment in innovation.
For public and non-profit agencies, the procurement process can be long and difficult. Almost any purchase over a certain dollar amount must be done through a competitive bidding process, and this traditionally requires a significant amount of time and money, two things that few public agencies have to spare.
An alternative that is growing in popularity is the use of national purchasing cooperatives. This strategy allows agencies from across the country to work together to adhere to the competitive bidding process and “piggyback” off each other’s success. Here’s a quick snapshot of how cooperative purchasing works from the National Intergovernmental Purchasing Alliance:
- A public agency prepares a competitive solicitation, incorporating language to make the agreement accessible nationally to other agencies in states that allow intergovernmental (i.e.: “piggyback”) contract usage.
- This principal procurement agency issues the solicitation and any required amendments and notifications, evaluates the responses, negotiates the final terms and ultimately awards the master agreement.
- The principal procurement agency works with a purchasing cooperative such as National IPA to make this same contract available for other agencies, who can then use it to get the same product at the same price from the same vendor.
There are numerous benefits to this strategy. It saves each individual agency significant time and resources, and ensures the smallest agency gets the same value as the largest. It also protects the fiscal and legal integrity of the procurement process, with each step of the process fully documented and transparent.
Cooperative contracts are available for everything from maintenance supplies to construction equipment, but one of the highest-impact ways they are used is for technology procurement. By working cooperatively, agencies throughout the country can be assured they are receiving the cutting-edge equipment their employees need at the best price. Since 2010, Panasonic has made its reliable Toughbook mobile computers available to government customers through a cooperative contract administered by the National IPA.
Another new technology purchasing strategy growing in popularity alongside cooperative contracts is a solutions-based approach – looking at what business challenges need to be addressed and then investing in a complete solution, rather than buying a disparate array of products. Not only is this approach comprehensive and efficient, it also has other benefits over piecemeal procurement – buying a suite of technology from one vendor makes support easier, and it also facilitates interoperability.
Recently, Panasonic expanded its offerings available through the National IPA to include its full line of business solutions, including mobile computers, AV equipment, office technology, security and surveillance and other products. Public agencies now have the opportunity to take advantage of the streamlined procurement process that purchasing cooperatives offer, while investing in comprehensive solutions that meet their specific challenges. To learn more about cooperative purchasing and see a full list of Panasonic products available through National IPA, visit http://www.nationalipa.org/panasonic or contact us at Contracts@us.panasonic.com.