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By Janine Pappalardo, Procurement Lobbyist
The Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) works to efficiently and effectively manage the Commonwealth’s comprehensive procurement processes. This is in concert with The Office of Administration (OA) which handles procurements that fall under the Office of Information Technology (OA/OIT); and larger agencies, such as The Department of Human Services, PennDot etc, that release procurements independently.
In consideration of directives from Governor Wolf to increase inclusivity of both small and small diverse businesses; as well as conversations and input from the vendor community; the Commonwealth has made recent changes to the overall procurement process design and scoring.
Here’s a look at what has changed and what is ahead for vendors looking to do business with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (CoPA) now and in the near future:
Small and Small Diverse Businesses
Perhaps the biggest changes affecting state vendors and procurement applicants this year are the ones made to the Small Diverse Businesses designation during the summer of 2016.
- Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Business Enterprises and Disabled-Owned Business Enterprises are now designated as Small Diverse Businesses (SDBs), along with the previously designated Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Veteran Business Enterprises, and Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises. An SDB designation is significant, because it provides organizations earning the designation with opportunities to compete for prime contracts with the Commonwealth and to add more value as a subcontractor to any team. It’s important to note here, that the Commonwealth DOES NOT CERTIFY entities to these categories, rather the Commonwealth verifies with national certifying entities.
- Prime contractors who subcontract with registered Small and Small Diverse Businesses (SB/SDB) are rewarded in points for participation in the program, and are expected to execute formal partner contracts to ensure commitments are met and made to all parties. The Commonwealth is working to enforce these commitments more aggressively by monitoring Small Diverse Business commitments throughout the duration of project contracts. The Department of General Services Bureau of Diversity Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities (DGS/BDISBO) works to offers assistance to both Primes and Sub-contractors in managing challenges and changes that can arise during the course of a contract.
RFP Process and Scoring
- More input is being gathered now from vendors prior to procurement release. There are currently more “Pre-Bid Conferences.” These meetings are aimed at better serving both the Commonwealth and the vendor community. CoPA gets to listen to up-to-date vendor input with time to impact the RFP, the vendor community has an opportunity to share ideas and concepts perhaps not considered before AND possible Prime Contractors and possible Sub-Contracting Small/Small Diverse Vendors can meet and mingle to consider teaming arrangements.
- The scoring process for Request for Proposals (RFPs) has also been streamlined in an effort to make the application process easier, more user-friendly, non-biased and logical from a purchasing perspective. RFP scoring has been and is still based on combined scoring of the technical content of the application, the team’s (prime and sub-contractors) small and small diverse business participation, and, of course, the proposed price. However, while the scoring is still separated into three categories, CoPA is moving towards a process where the categories are no longer scored in complete isolation from one another. The concept to view everything collectively, rather than in a vacuum, allows the Commonwealth to consider proposals from a broader and more complete perspective.
- Product Suppliers are also now seeing reverse auctions as CoPA works to reduce costs. This in and of itself elicits a new challenge for vendors wanting to be cost competitive while still delivering quality products.
Coming Soon: Online Procurement Submissions
- DGS will be releasing an online tool that will allow for procurement submissions to be uploaded electronically. This will eliminate the big, heavy binders that the agencies have historically carried around, stored and paged through for review. Online submissions will allow vendors to focus more time, money, and resources on preparation and content versus how to “dress up” binders. This move to accept online submissions would also allow smaller and newer organizations to participate on a level playing field and showcase their digital and technical acumen, as well as the substance of their applications. Already, the Pennsylvania Budget Office allows for electronic invoicing as part of its e-procurement program.
Navigating the procurement process in Pennsylvania can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but failing to keep up with the latest changes and nuances within the process can hinder otherwise competent and respectable companies.
If your organization is looking to do business with the Commonwealth, contact a Pugliese Associates procurement specialist today to ensure you have the tools and knowledge to submit a successful and winning proposal.