The County of Santa Clara has successfully implemented their eProcurement initiative by transcending the functional silos that have traditionally limited procurement’s effectiveness and influence in the past.
In short, and for the first time since I began covering Virginia’s eVA initiative back in 2007, I can say with great confidence that there is now another beacon of procurement excellence in the public sector. I am of course talking about Santa Clara.
What makes Director of Procurement Jenti Vandertuig’s story so compelling is that the initiative – which is now returning such tremendous results, started off a little rocky.
According to Vandertuig, the initial implementation strategy with Ariba followed the tired sequential approach of implementing individual modules. The problem of course is that this turns the initiative into a technology-centric exercise that partitions responsibility and limits communication.
Instead of becoming stuck within the unproductive confines of an individual task structure, Vandertuig and her team decided to go in a different direction that mirrored the approach taken by Virginia with eVA.
“As a result, they avoided the trap of eVA becoming a software project as Bob put it, and were thereby able shift the emphasis from an exercise in cost justification, to one of process understanding and refinement. And while the Ariba application has done the job it was required to do, eVA’s effectiveness has little to do with the technology and more to do with the methodology the Virginia brain trust employed. It is when technology (nee software) is seen as the primary vehicle to drive results that it becomes ineffectual and mostly irrelevant. The 75 to 85% e-procurement initiative failure rate gives testimony to this fact.” from Yes Virginia! There is more to e-procurement than software! (Part 1), September 12th, 2007
Besides looking beyond the technology for implementation success, Vandertuig’s team reached out to Ariba as well as both the finance and IT departments at Santa Clara to establish a relational framework. What is both interesting and exciting, is that the their framework encapsulated the very principles and values championed by Andy Akrouche in his book Relationships First: The New Relationship Paradigm in Contracting.
Operating within a true collaborative environment in which mutual understanding and gain are realized through increased communication and transparency, Santa Clara has done what few have been able to do in either the public or private sectors. The County has in essence scaled the equivalent of Everest in terms of a successful procurement driven implementation.
Over the coming weeks I will be dedicating more virtual ink to this story.
Part of the reason is that I have been waiting for such a long time for another eVA-like success. However, what is even more important is how, despite the 15 years  between the Virginia and Santa Clara initiatives, this may finally be a sign that procurement driven implementations of this nature and magnitude can achieve scalability across the broader public sector.
 Virginia’s eVA initiative was first launched in 2001