National roundtable brings CIOs and CPOs together to solve procurement woes

Nearly half of all CIOs view their procurement processes negatively. A new national partnership aims to share knowledge across disciplines and improve how government buys things.

In state government, those who buy technology have often been at odds with those who manage it.

A new partnership is attempting to bridge this divide through an action plan that was created at the first national CIO and CPO (chief procurement officer) roundtable. The meeting, which took place in took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, was organized by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) as a starting point for joint collaboration, the groups announced Thursday.

DeLaine Bender, executive director of NASPO, said the meeting focused officials on the often-neglected task of having “honest, pragmatic, and purposeful communication” between CIO and CPO.

“NASPO and NASCIO have been working together toward better collaboration on IT procurement for more than a year, and the roundtable was an important step forward for both associations,” Bender said. “For the first time, CPOs and CIOs came together through our associations to have face-to-face conversations about how to improve processes in IT procurement.”


For CIOs and CPOs, NASCIO Senior Policy Analyst Meredith Ward said the meeting was transformational because it allowed the groups to get a glimpse of the processes and problems each group faces. CIOs often want quick turnaround on modern technology, while CPOs desire the same but also seek consistency and predictability for IT purchasing strategies. Last February, NASCIO published a report with recommendations on procurement reform that might reconcile these viewpoints. The document reveals that nearly 47 percent of state CIOs held a negative outlook on IT procurement processes. 

“Leading by example, a culture shift, communication, a lot of that was really key,” Ward said “And once you sit down and talk about these issues — instead of just throwing a grenade over the wall at procurement — then projects can maybe run a little more smoothly.”

Reaching out to NASPO, Ward said CIO concerns were met with an equal amount of support to assist, this dialogue ultimately led to the roundtable and their action plan that breaks down specific areas for collaboration. 

Areas where CIOs and CPOs can collaborate:

  • Governance and organizational structure — a dimension that looks at components of project resource, workflow, design and delivery. 
  • Teaming and roles — how IT and procurement teams define their roles, levels of authority and accountability.
  • Interactions and processes — exploring communication systems, task management and decision-making processes.
  • Budgeting and forecasting — the “process for predicting and allocating funding” through budget planning cycles, purchasing methods and reviews.

In the action plan, each of these four components are given a laundry list of items for each group to review, which include improvement areas that could be considered a wish list for next steps.

Bender chalked up the ideation sessions to a solid beginning. 

“Communicating early and often is one of the most important general recommendations to come out of the collaboration between NASPO and NASCIO so far,” Bender said. “Bringing in procurement and IT professionals to work together at the very beginning of an IT procurement, and being as inclusive as possible as the process continues, are crucial elements of success in IT procurement.”

Apart from planning, the roundtable also looked at cutting-edge procurements by entities like California’s child welfare system, which gained expertise from federal IT innovation groups such as 18F and the U.S. Digital Service. Instead of releasing one large RFP, California officials broke down contracts into smaller, more manageable parts. The state hoped to slash costs and ensure the project was completed on time and on budget — multi-year contracts are infamous for their high costs and time overruns.

Ohio offered another use case, one that in just five years had the state breaking down a massive data silo challenge and migrating more than 5,000 servers to the cloud. Amid the project, the state was also able to redirect a large share of funding toward modern technology and away from outdated systems.


Bender said she was optimistic similar gains could be had via the new national partnership.

“We are not going to solve all of these problems overnight, but we are certainly on the right path to more efficient and effective collaboration between the CIO and CPO,” she said. “ … The fact that we have a shared action plan and the desire to move forward is key to our success because, in order to succeed, we have to succeed together.”

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