The Texas Department of Information Resources—or Texas DIR—serves as a bridge between private and public sector processes across the state.

Texas DIR is responsible for providing “technology leadership, solutions, and value to Texas state government, education, and local government entities to enable and facilitate the fulfillment of their core missions.”* In other words, Texas DIR's 198 employees work with the private sector on behalf of colleagues to bring the latest technological advancements into the state, streamlining the procurement process and making better use of taxpayer funds all around. Its work allows departments and agencies to focus more of their efforts on the missions at hand, not on navigating the different buying practices between public and private sectors.

Texas DIR makes innovation more accessible across the Lone Star State.

 

With Salesforce we can continue to add more and more apps for the same fixed fee, locking down costs but expanding the technology value.”

TODD KIMBRIEL, COO AT TEXAS DIR

Bridging the gap between public and private sectors is no small task, with no small impact.

Where the private sector has the luxury of selecting a target customer, and designing a product or service accordingly, the public sector must serve everyone. Where the private sector can pick and choose between partners based on a number of competitive advantages, the public sector is often encouraged to work with the partner that can provide the highest quality service at the lowest cost—determined by the review cycles of the public procurement process. What may seem like cycles of unnecessary government overhead is in fact a system carefully designed to drive the kind of competition that fuels innovation, for the benefit of an industry that does not always have the ability (or the budget) to experiment. Every dollar saved is a dollar that can be used to support mission-critical programs and services; education, healthcare, public safety, transportation, and more.

As essential as the procurement process is, the operations behind it are still one of the most costly and time consuming government models, largely because many agencies still use a paper-based process for issuing RFPs and evaluating vendor proposals. “Currently, when you look at most of the processes of the government today whether its HR systems, procurement, how they do delivery, or policy design - most of the systems are incompatible with the digital age and they need to be modernized,” said Executive Director for Deloitte’s Center for Government, Bill Eggers, on a recent episode of Our Digital Nation. “There are a lot of government transactions and services that can be 100% digitized. You would never have to fill out any forms on paper again.” And Eggers is not the only one noticing this gap; in a recent survey of government IT, finance, and procurement decision-makers, the Center for Digital Government found that 31% of respondents do not have a portal or eProcurement system where they can post bids and RFPs online.** In fact, many leading agencies have manual systems with at least 100 steps in the procurement process, each of which lack consistency, flexibility, and thus the ability to be repurposed. The resulting lag time can have a major ripple effect on public services, holding agencies back from maximizing their impact. 

But not in Texas. 

A self-proclaimed provider of technology leadership—not just technology solutions—Texas DIR turned this pattern into a call-to-action. The team developed BidStamp — an eProcurement application on the Salesforce Lightning Platform that took its paper-based procurement process digital, automating workflows and streamlining solicitations and contracts throughout the procurement lifecycle:

  • Community Cloud powers BidStamp's vendor information portal. Contract hopefuls (think: prospective bidders, current vendors, past vendors, and so on) can log in and create a profile that outlines their ability to meed key functions required during the solicitation response process.

  • Once they have moved from hopeful to prospective bidders, contractors can view DIR solicitations, download relevant documentation, and upload proposal responses directly to the online portal, giving the right people access to the right information on both sides of the procurement process. Contractors can continue to access information throughout the bidding process, giving them visibility to the various aspects that will help them be the strongest partner to Texas' mission. 

  • Digital scorecards—set up using pre-configured workflow rules that quantify a prospective bidder's applicability based on a set of objective criteria—help the DIR staff make informed purchasing decisions faster. Instead of manually consolidating and evaluating 100+ page vendor proposals, the team can review a scorecard, reducing the total lifecycle from solicitation release to contract awarded.

  • BidStamp integrates with third-party systems, including web portals like FedBizOps, on-prem solutions, and legacy systems, using out-of-the-box APIs. DIR integrated BidStamp with SharePoint, extending its new automation capabilities to document management. This integration helped reduced data duplication and increased organizational consistency across the agency.

While BidStamp's benefits became quite clear to DIR internally, the applicability was not lost on the staff's counterparts. The eProcurement project inspired over 25 new app projects across the state, helping Texas manage everything from asset tracking, to budgeting, to help desks, portfolios, and more. “If you want state agencies to move to 21st century technology, you need to keep it simple to implement and use,” says Todd Kimbriel, Deputy Executive Director and State CIO, “so we adopted a Salesforce first policy for our development team.”

“With Salesforce we can build some apps in weeks that would take months with other solutions,” said Kimbriel. “This helps us ensure that every dollar is spent as effectively as possible. We can continue to add more and more apps for the same fixed fee, locking down costs but expanding the technology value.”

And, since many of the apps are built by its own administrators, with or without a formal IT background, the agency is spared the staffing costs and time allocations so typical of traditional deployment processes. “A more junior admin [within DIR] started using Salesforce, became very entrepreneurial, and started developing applications on her own. She was not really an IT person to begin with, but learnings from others using the Platform helped her leapfrog the innovation process,” said Kimbriel.

Developing new apps on on the cloud is not only fast, but also cost-effective, key to the financial stewardship inherent to Texas DIR's mission.

 
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