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Taking collaborative purchasing to new heights in Barnstable County

September 8, 2021 | Bonfire Interactive

Beach in Cape Cod, Barnstable County

From the moment she stepped into her role as Chief Procurement Officer, Jennifer Frates knew the procurement process had to change if Barnstable County was going to improve collaboration and deliver more value for stakeholders now and into the future.

With 15 towns and a one-person procurement team managing cooperative bids for all of them, the regional government for Cape Cod, Massachusetts relies on strong collaboration in its procurement process. Achieving that through workflows involving hardcopy submissions, in-person bidding, manual Excel tabulations, and email wasn’t only labor-intensive. It was also preventing the county from reaching more vendors, making data-driven decisions, and finding innovative new purchasing solutions.

Having come from an organization that used Bonfire for eProcurement, Jennifer says, “I knew right away – the technology exists, we can use this software to be able to efficiently have the same exact process that we have now and be able to do it quicker, faster and with a lot less administrative work on my part.” 

Experience had shown her that switching from paper-based to eProcurement would be the best way to help the towns deliver more cost-effective, on-budget solutions and collaborate more effectively — and Bonfire fit the bill.

15 towns working together

Barnstable County has a population of over 212,000 across its 15 towns. Since none of the towns have dedicated procurement departments, they often pursue cooperative bids coordinated through the county to make the most of their resources and level up their purchasing power.

In order to do that, the towns need to be able to work together effectively and efficiently to get projects off the ground, a task single-handedly managed by Jennifer, who is responsible for all the bidding, contracting, and purchasing for the internal department and county-wide cooperative bids. That includes RFPs for critical projects such as road materials, school supplies, fuel, professional services, and more.

Paper-based procurement slows progress

As if coordinating cooperative bids for 15 towns wasn’t already complex enough, Barnstable’s manual processes made every project even more difficult and procurement was up against some significant challenges, including:

  • Labor-intensive clerical processes that were creating inefficiencies and unnecessary administrative overhead
  • No centralized way to coordinate communication and collaborative processes between stakeholders, vendors and evaluators across multiple towns
  • A lack of data analysis and insights that limited strategic planning and decision-making
  • A small pool of vendors with no easy way to extend their reach, which meant the county and towns weren’t getting the best possible value for citizens

Bonfire keeps all stakeholders on the same (virtual) page

Switching to Bonfire’s state-of-the-art eProcurement software has saved Barnstable County countless hours of administrative effort, expanded their vendor pool, and improved pricing and value, enabling them to divert more funds to critical projects that make all the towns better.

Everything in one central location

Providing a centralized platform for seamless collaboration, Bonfire allows all stakeholders, including vendors, internal departments, and evaluators, to see all the information they need in one convenient place with automated reminders and notifications so they never miss a step or deadline. It’s simple for everyone to see where others are in the process and easily submit and view documents, comments, and feedback.

Time-saving process automation

Like many agencies struggling with a shrinking budget, adding more team members to the procurement department simply wasn’t an option for Barnstable. Bonfire eProcurement has filled that gap and delivered more value with less budget, taking the administrative burden off Jennifer’s shoulders — almost like a virtual extension of her team.

Faster, data-driven decision-making

Automating previously manual tasks has freed up time for higher-level strategic planning and decisions backed by data-driven insights from Bonfire. Not only do digitized processes allow Barnstable to complete projects faster, they also translate to more competitive bids, higher quality submissions, and direct cost savings. During COVID-19, Barnstable was able to use Bonfire to complete time-sensitive projects quickly and easily, including procuring COVID testing equipment and commissioning a study on the pandemic’s economic impact.

A future of collective success

Every day Jennifer sees the role collaboration plays in getting the most value for taxpayer dollars. “A lot of budgets are getting slashed and people are trying to find new opportunities to save,” she says. “This is where it becomes much more important for public procurement officials to collaborate.” For Barnstable’s towns, which rely on cooperative bids to stay on budget, Bonfire has drastically improved their ability to collaborate for better, faster results.

If your agency uses paper-based procurement processes, some of the challenges Barnstable County was facing probably sound familiar. Discover more about how Bonfire instantly expanded their procurement capacity with Bonfire by watching the full video client story.

About the author

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Bonfire Interactive

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.