Transforming Contract Management: Q&A with Hazel Orick Gibson of Anderson County, Tennessee
We recently sat down with Hazel Orick Gibson, who’s responsible for bid and contract management for Anderson County, Tennessee, to discuss how Anderson County has been able to adopt technology and instill cultural change across departments to streamline contract management and other purchasing processes.
We always hear that governments are required to do more with less. Do you think that’s true?
That is absolutely true. As county government employees, we are charged with being good stewards of county resources. We make every effort to procure goods and services at the best possible price. For instance, when a department head contacts purchasing about the need for a product or service, I first look to outside sources such as GSA, cooperatives or statewide contracts. Using these resources saves county dollars and work hours. This also allows me to focus on other priorities versus writing out solicitations that may already be available for our use. This is only one of the many steps the Purchasing Department takes to ensure the county obtains the best value.
Before you implemented vendor management software, how did you manage your vendors and solicitations?
Although our vendor management solution was already in place when I came to Anderson County, I understand that all solicitations were physically mailed to potential bidders. The work hours and money invested, as well as the trees that were killed for that process, is tough to think about. Anderson County employed the use of a database that held the names and contact information of registered bidders. There are many unknown variables when solicitations are physically mailed. Do we have the most up-to-date contact information for the vendor? Have they received the packet with enough time to respond? It can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of that method.
When you implemented the contract management module, what was that implementation like?
We manually entered contracts for the current fiscal year into the system, which did take some time. Once we completed the process, the next step was maintenance as contracts are either renewed or rebid and entering any new contracts. We created administrators for each department, allowing the user departments to receive notifications for contract status changes. The initial setup was a bit of work; however, it has proven to be well worth the effort.
How has a contract management system changed your processes and how you interact with other departments?
Before Anderson County implemented the contract management module, departments were given hard copies of contracts upon execution. Departments would have to contact the Purchasing Department if they had questions or needed to request additional copies. With Vendor Registry’s Contracts Management Program, departments now have instant access to their contracts and any attachments pertaining to the contract. An additional benefit is that we were able to input expiration dates for contracts and set up reminders to be delivered via automatic email to department administrators. We have our reminders set at 2 months’ notice for contract expirations and 4 months’ notice for bids attached to contracts. We have seen renewals completed much quicker; departments are actively involved and proactive in moving forward given the cross-department visibility the system provides.
What type of improvements have you seen at Anderson County with a vendor management and contract management solution in place?
This program has been a lifesaver. When I look at the processes Anderson County employed before this technology, it is mind boggling how labor-intensive one solicitation could be. One of the primary improvements is that we are now able to electronically issue solicitations, invitations to bid and RFPs, then notify vendors of the solicitation. This has decreased the work hours that were once required to physically compile and mail the documents. Also, I believe allowing vendors to register via the website has opened competition by allowing Anderson County to reach a greater number potential bidders.
In addition to vendors self-registering, when departments provide a list of vendors they wish to be notified of a solicitation, I have the option to manually add those into the Vendor Registry system. If a solicitation requires addenda, all potential bidders receive the documents via Vendor Registry by publishing the document as an addition to the original solicitation. This option eliminates the need for multiple emails, I really appreciate that feature. During the publication process of the solicitation, I can perform a search through the system for vendors that match the product or service requested, which has allowed for new vendors and very competitive pricing, again saving the county money.
Can you tell me about a particular time when your contract management system saved the day?
We recently had an issue in which our department lost several days’ worth of data that had been entered into our drives. In order to track of the number of contracts processed in a given time period, I enter the appropriate information into a spreadsheet and scan all of the accompanying documents into the drives. When our drives went down, I lost several days of this data.
I panicked for a moment because I thought I would have to retrace the last several days of input, and re-enter it into the system. This meant many hours of labor! Fortunately, I realized all of the information, including the contract data and scans, were housed in the Vendor Registry Contract Management System. I was able to pull the information from the system versus having to go through contract files manually. Vendor Registry saved the day!
Do you feel you get the value and support you need from your vendor and contract management system provider?
The system has made bids and contract management a much simpler process. Anderson County has gained access to a wide array of vendors for solicitations. This program has allowed the Purchasing Department to continue to effectively and efficiently fulfill its duty to provide the right product in the right quantity from the right source at the right time and place for the right price.
As to support, I can call or email anyone at Vendor Registry and get in touch with them virtually immediately; which is invaluable. Vendor Registry always provides excellent customer service.
In addition, when I have had input or suggestions for improvements to the system, Vendor Registry has been very receptive. I have seen some of the suggested changes come to fruition. Vendor Registry is open to the end user’s perspective and how that can be utilized to make its product better.
What would you say to another governments that’s looking to implement vendor and contract management technology?
Just try it. I believe at times it is challenging to implement a new process or cultural change and form new habits; especially when multiple departments are involved. We have received a great deal of praise from other departments for implementing Vendor Registry’s Contract Management Program. The program has allowed our 60+ departments immediate access to their contract documents and vendor information.
It is human nature to fear change. I can confidently say there is no need to fear moving your contracts management processes into the 21st century with Vendor Registry’s program. Vendor Registry’s Contract Management Program adds value to your organization in many ways by streamlining processes and allowing the contract management and solicitation processes to be more efficient.
What challenges do you face in your purchasing department? Vendor Registry was created with the help of Anderson County and many other local governments to provide sustainable and efficient solutions for common purchasing problems. Start a free trial now or contact us with questions or for more information.
Special thanks to Hazel Orick Gibson and Anderson County for allowing us to share their story.