ITAPS applauds the Virginia General Assembly and Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) for passing into law Senate Bill 150 to better balance the interests of the commonwealth of Virginia and the private sector when it comes to state information technology (IT) projects. The new law delays the evaluation of vendor exceptions to liability provisions until after the technical evaluation of the proposal has been completed. This is a welcome improvement because vendor liability has been, and continues to be, a major concern for the IT sector. Higher limitations of vendor liability leads to less competition among vendors and ultimately higher prices for states and their taxpayers.
While Senate Bill 150 is a step in the right direction, we still find Virginia’s procurement approach troublesome. For example, a vendor’s bid may still be disqualified based on the exceptions it raises to an agency’s other terms and conditions specified in the agency’s request for proposal. This approach can result in forcing leading IT vendors to either take on unmanageable risk or to choose not to bid on the project.
To build on this session’s progress, our recommendations to state legislators and the governor for further strengthening the commonwealth’s procurement process include:
- Specifically Define the Business Problem to be Solved During the Pre-Request For Proposal (RFP) Process. Without a well-defined and articulated problem, and preferred outcome, the procurement process is likely to go off-course.
- Improve Communication and Contract Planning. Broad communication between the IT vendor community and public agencies can significantly reduce the risk of underperformance and is particularly essential at the outset of planning a project.
- Leverage IT Expertise in Acquisition. Embed CIO staff expertise on cross-department acquisition project teams to improve IT planning, maximize technology solutions, develop solicitations, evaluate proposals, shorten the procurement process and more.
- Enhance Procurement Staff Training. Budget constraints for new skills training, pay inequity against the private sector and an aging IT workforce compound the risks posed to successful IT projects across all levels of government. The surest cure against these challenges is for policymakers to adequately fund strong, relevant, and in-depth training and professional development of procurement and IT staff throughout their career tenure.
We urge the commonwealth, and other states, to continue to incorporate continuous improvements into their public procurement process that will advance technological innovation across the state enterprise and produce the best outcomes for their customers and citizens.