The City has long discussed ways to improve its contracting and procurement processes and broaden its vendor pool. These efforts were part of a national conversation on how to deploy technology and other updated approaches to improve the way government buys goods and services. Recently, the Office of Innovation and Technology dedicated a resource towards this initiative by hiring a “procurement advocate.” The new position helps small and mid-sized firms navigate municipal processes and aims to make it easier to do business with the City. It also supports more experimental and pilot-style contracting. Todd Baylson, who has worked for both city government and a small technology start-up, was hired as the procurement advocate in late 2014.
Internally, Todd’s work is about engagement, reaching out to relevant stakeholders to help shape future processes. The City’s cross-departmental procurement working group has convened and the procurement advocate is its first dedicated resource to help move forward on shared objectives and aspirations. A number of departments and agencies within city government deal with contracting, procurement, or vendors: the Department of Finance, Procurement, Law, Commerce, the Chief Integrity Officer, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, and the Office of Innovation and Technology. The working group aims to leverage the expertise of these agencies, examine best practices around the country, and craft an agenda to improve the way the City buys goods and services.
Externally, Todd’s efforts are focused on raising awareness around contracting and procurement opportunities for vendors, specifically technology firms. Municipal processes can be mysterious—daunting even—to the average Philadelphian or business owner. Firms looking to do business with the City have a partner in the procurement advocate, someone to make potential opportunities easier to find, someone who is accessible for questions about the process, someone who is seeking more bids and responses to the City’s opportunities.
There’s a natural crossover between these external efforts and the work of the Department of Commerce, which offers similar services to businesses looking to operate within the city and works to improve public policy in support of small business and economic development. Most recently, the Department of Commerce’s Archna Sahay, Manager of Entrepreneurial Investments, and Todd collaborated in the creation of the City’s first “Entrepreneur Office Hours.” The monthly initiative will offer open drop-in hours to entrepreneurs looking to either open a business in the city or understand and apply for City contracts (or both). Archna and Todd will host Entrepreneur Office Hours in coworking spaces across Philadelphia. Here’s the schedule for the next four months if you’d like to drop-in:
April 20th: Pipeline
May 20th: Impact Hub
June 20th: Benjamin’s Desk
July 20th: Turnkey
(Check-out @PHLGovContracts for specific hours)
By engaging internal and external stakeholders and helping to increase awareness, contracting and procurement opportunities have a chance to become more efficient and attract a larger pool of vendors. A larger pool of vendors ultimately means better buying for the City.
What do you think of the procurement advocate position?