Connecticut launches ‘problem-based’ procurement for digital government

Inflexible and outmoded procurement processes in state government often discourage competition and can lead to the purchase of suboptimal solutions. In an attempt to reverse this trend, Connecticut has launched its first “problem-based” procurement, state Chief Information Officer Mark Raymond recently told StateScoop.

“We’ve launched our first digital government procurement and it was problem-based approach, which said ‘here’s ten pages, not 200, tell me how you’re going to help us solve this problem,’” Raymond said.

This approach varies from a typical procurement process in state government in which the agency seeking to purchase a product tightly defines the specifications of the solution. By defining the problem instead, vendors will have the opportunity to design and propose solutions that Connecticut officials might not have thought of or even known existed.

In addition to providing its potential vendors more latitude in developing their proposals, Connecticut is also accelerating the procurement process, which, notoriously, can in some cases drag on for years in state government.

“It’s meant to run very quickly, meant to bring flexibility and creativity to the solutions that we get,” Raymond said. “And we’re currently evaluating what those look like now. Our hope is that we get them out and done and awarded by the end of the year. So we’re on a very quick timeline.”

The project was spurred by the state’s new digital government services team, which Raymond said recently received an appropriation.

Connecticut’s approach follows the recommendation of an October 2018 report from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers that says agencies should “craft [requests for information] and [requests for proposal] in a manner that encourages solutions from the private sector rather than focusing on overly prescriptive specifications.”

Raymond on his top priorities and projects:

“Right now in Connecticut our top priorities are digital government, that’s first and foremost. We’re also concerned and working on cybersecurity.”

Raymond on digital services and mobility:

“We believe because government is so broad, you know it’s very hard for people to understand the services we provide. So if we understand and use digital identity to customize and provide personalization to them, we make ourselves much more responsive and easy for citizens and business to do work with us.”

Raymond on how he sees his role changing in the future:

“This is advocacy, evangelization, kind of the seller of a potential vision of how we get there and not big humongous projects, but iteratively changing the way we think about our everyday activities to bring benefit and value every step of the way.”

These videos were produced by StateScoop at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, in October 2019.