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June 1, 2021 | Bonfire Interactive
Transposing thousands of line items from paper into Excel. Facing high-conflict moments while opening physical envelopes in front of a crowd of vendors. And, of course, dealing with countless inevitable paper cuts.
Those are just a few of the challenges Gerald Reiner, Bergen County’s Director of Purchasing, won’t miss now that the New Jersey county has transitioned from paper-based processes to Bonfire’s eProcurement platform.
“There was just so much paper,” Reiner says. “I can’t tell you just how many paper cuts I would get with bid openings. Not to mention, as you’re sifting through papers and everyone’s eyes are on you, looking for every little mistake so they can contend the bid if it’s close.”
As the largest county in New Jersey by geography and population, Bergen County jumped at the chance to streamline their processes when new state legislation brought on by the pandemic, namely Assembly Bill 3112, allowed local government and school districts to use eProcurement technology.
Since adopting Bonfire, their newly streamlined, digitized procurement processes are already driving overwhelmingly positive results — some they didn’t even see coming.
With a population of over 900,000, Bergen County runs an average number of solicitations that, within New Jersey, is second only to the State. The purchasing department sources goods and services for a diverse array of internal clients, including nine departments, a sheriff’s office, a prosecutor’s office, a surrogate’s office, New Jersey’s largest public hospital, and more.
While citizens have only a small window into purchasing activities — mainly roads, parks and plows, says Reiner — procurement teams know just how much sourcing goes on behind the scenes. Bergen County’s purchasing department sources a variety of goods and services, from professional consulting to veterinary pharmaceuticals, and everything in-between.
On top of the obvious safety risks that COVID-19 posed to in-person bid openings and evaluator meetings, even before the pandemic Bergen County had already been facing procurement challenges. Like any other government organization with predominantly paper-based processes, the County was dealing with issues like human error, significant project delays, and frustrated vendors.
Being limited to procurement processes that relied on paper and in-person meetings presented a host of challenges for every solicitation. Something as simple as procuring traffic signal repair parts involved weeks of transposing paper bids into Excel. “And then we would have to go through and make sure that everything was evaluated side-by-side after we transposed them, and hope we didn’t make an error,” Reiner says.
Recognizing that paper-based and highly manual procurement workflows were limiting the busy purchasing team’s ability to meet their stakeholders’ complex and varying needs, Bergen County became one of the first public entities in New Jersey to transition to eProcurement.
Bonfire’s state-of-the-art procurement technology delivers on all of Bergen County’s security, vendor experience, and interdepartmental collaboration needs, all with fully-supported implementation.
Implementing new eProcurement software in the middle of a pandemic came with some daunting change management demands, but Bonfire’s award-winning client implementation and support helped Bergen County get complete internal buy-in. “Our implementation specialist Krista was great because she not only helped us learn the platform, but she kept our implementation on track,” says Reiner.
Like every public entity, Bergen County needed a solution that protects their data while still ensuring a fair and transparent process. Bonfire meets their stringent criteria for fedRAMP compliance, consistent uptime, role-based access, and anti-virus security.
Bonfire is also supporting Bergen County’s goal to drive more competitive solicitations and increase their vendor pool by increasing visibility into bids in the County and across New Jersey. With an improved, user-friendly experience, Bonfire ensures that vendors are able to submit their bids seamlessly, on time, and with support through email or phone.
According to Reiner, improved cooperation between departments is where Bonfire has delivered the most significant impact, providing a one-stop destination that’s easy to navigate and accessible to everyone. “We can work with our internal agencies or even our external consultants and we know that everyone is seeing the same information at once,” he says.
Delivering digitized procurement at every stage of the process, Bonfire empowered Bergen County to drive impressive results and return on investment, including:
As more public entities across North America make the switch to Bonfire, paper-based agencies are lagging behind. Learn how our intuitive, powerful, and easy-to-use platform can help you make better, faster sourcing decisions. Request a demo today
Bonfire helps public procurement teams reach better sourcing outcomes through an experience that’s blazingly fast, powered by peer insights, and so easy to use—vendors love it just as much as buyers do.
Read the full Bergen County case study