Many common IT products and software can easily be purchased by leveraging cooperative agreements or opportunities, says Brett Adams-Case. He currently oversees a procurement group for the Wyoming Department of Enterprise Technology Services.

The agency provides IT services to all Wyoming executive branch agencies and fixed-fee services to the legislative branches of government. Adams-Case also serves on the NIGP task force that is developing the “IT Procurement Best Practices” series of reports.

Public procurement pros should also consider using coops in major initiatives, Adams-Case says. “Cooperatives are a great starting place for many large-scale IT projects such as enterprise resource planning systems, cloud storage solutions, etc.” 

Adams-Case believes cooperative agreements can be useful buying tools for small purchasing groups and public entities that are lean-staffed. “The RFP process can be time-consuming and laborious for any entity. For groups that do not have the staff to dedicate to complex procurements, coops can be a time- and money-saving resource.”

But coops can benefit larger entities, also, he explains. “Coops with well-structured programs and contract vehicles can assist any entity regardless of size and resources for IT procurement by helping to reduce timelines. They also can provide resources needed to equip all sizes of entities with enterprise IT.”

It’s important, says Adams-Case, that coops are designed to meet today’s needs. “Cooperative contracts and programs should be structured to support the rapid change of the 2017 IT landscape. They also should be tailored to the intrinsic speed of government.” 

He says the public sector often deals with a broad mix of equipment that spans several technology generations. “While many IT public entities work hard to stay abreast of new technologies and tools available to them, there is also legacy IT and IT infrastructure (such as network equipment, physical storage devices, desktop computers, etc.) that must be maintained and replaced.”

The key to any successful procurement is to make sure that the requirements are well-identified, Adams-Case tells GPN. He says that procurement teams should be trained in and familiar with the IT technologies that are to be procured. “This is true regardless of the instrument being used for the procurement (RFP, cooperative agreement, etc.),” he says.

Public buyers need to thoroughly analyze potential purchase vehicles, he explains. “When entities rely on cooperative procurement programs as a sole source, the entities must be aware of contract terms and program requirements.” He adds that cooperative agreements can sometimes limit price reductions, bundling opportunities and other resources that vendors may have offered to the government entity in a direct purchase.

Each cooperative program should be evaluated to ensure that it complies with requirements for the entity, Adams-Case says. “It is the responsibly of procurement looking to use cooperative opportunities to also research and evaluate cooperative programs for fitness and compliance with statutory or other regulations. Not all programs will meet all entity requirements.”

For example, some cooperatives require governments to also sign an agreement (often called a participating addendum) prior to using the program. Negotiating these agreements can, at times, be as arduous as establishing a direct contract between the entity and the vendor, he explains.

Adams-Case says cooperative contracts are often useful for repeat buys, small dollar buys, or to enable agencies to do mass buys and reduce cost through volume. His conclusion: “Cooperative contracts can be used to identify potential solutions and vendors, but tailored procurement and contract negotiations often lead to low cost and a better scope fit overall.”

Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: michael.keating@penton.com

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