Implementation and Management Approach
Effective coordination and decision-making
The central procurement done by FPA is based on Frame contracts, which themselves are founded on need analysis and standardisation elaborated in working groups with major clients.
The e-procurement is based on the so called procurement cycle which is split into pre-awarding and post-awarding phases. The pre-awarding process is regulated in its needs and prerequisites by European rules and national law. The post- awarding process is by now not regulated in detail. We decided in favour of the clients to invest in an electronic ordering system. Based on a need analysis and a return on investment calculation the supervisory board and the user council agreed in the investment.
The project itself is based on professional project management und accompanied by a steering committee for major decisions. Supervisory board is informed regularly at least 4 times a year and the users quote once a year their satisfaction and their wishes for potential improvement.
The partners in e-procurement, which means in our case focused on e-ordering, are in the role as enabler FPA with its strategic partners IBM and Healey Hudson, the public administration in the role as beneficiaries and the suppliers who offer their products and services via electronic catalogues.
As a result of a European wide public Tender the realisation partners are elected for a 5 year period with an option to choose 5 more years of strategic cooperation. Suppliers, who use the electronic shop to sell their products and services, are elected by public tenders and accompanied by an expert team of FPA to launch their catalogues correctly.
Implementation and change management strategy
FPA has a strong change management process in place tying up with effective risk control. FPA issued the General Contracting Terms (AVB-IT) for IT procurement in the Federal Administration. AVB-IT regulates all service level agreement aspects, particularly concerning adaptations to increased needs by FPA and technological change. The steering committee is built by FPA and the suppliers. It equally applies to standard software vendors, individual software implementers and the Federal Computing Center as hosting provider. The main aim in all change management procedures laid down in AVB-IT is to minimize the financial and technical risk exposure to FPA.
Information and training of suppliers and clients is a precondition for the acceptance of electronic ordering. Regular reporting and discussions in the user board level up the acceptance of electronic ordering. User workshops help to improve the system.
Leadership, management of ICT
FPA is a very lean organisation and consistently aims to focus on its core competencies. The operation of FPA's IT infrastructure is therefore outsourced to the Austrian Federal Computing Center.
Being the system owner, however, FPA manages all application related activities such as:
- Project/application management for implementation projects and maintenance activities (including ongoing quality assurance, bug fixing, testing, change requests, SLA monitoring)
- Provision of helpdesk and procurement expertise
- Consultation for optimal use of available IT systems including support of necessary organisational changes
Multi-channel strategy, management of resources
Despite the high operational efficiency of highly integrated electronic interaction, FPA has to take a wide variety of different services on one side and very heterogeneous process participants (suppliers and buyers) on the other side into account. Therefore, FPA offers multiple channels for communication and different modes of interaction between FPA and the users of its services. Â
- E-Shop: Suppliers can download their orders as PDF-document or have them sent to their ERP-system as XML-document.
- E-Shop: Approvals can be handled purely electronically within the application. However, the application also provides a printout for traditional paper approval.
- E-Shop: Suppliers may submit their electronic catalogues in BMEcat standard or simply enter the data in an Excel-like template.
- End user support & training: is provided via help functions within the applications, eLearning tutorials, classroom trainings, telephone helpdesk.
In its role as application owner, FPA takes responsibility for knowledge management in a number of ways:
- Knowledge transfer to its customers and suppliers (provision of eLearning, classroom trainings, helpdesk)
- Knowledge sharing among the different parties of the FPA operations via structured processes (e.g. operations handbook, end user documentation) and collaborative tools (e.g. incident management tool which also serves as knowledge database)
Human resource management, risk management
Identification and management of risks is crucial for FPA as it offers unique services for public organisations with a high availability and containing sensitive data. For these reasons, FPA has taken several steps in order to identify and contain risks:
- Concentration on core competencies
- Outsourcing of IT infrastructure operations to an ISO certified computing center
- Ethical hacking of its own applications
- External audits
- Implementation of access management based on separation of duty principle
- Multi layer application model
- Separate pilot-systems for initial/complex implementations
Standardisation and risk control were key elements of Federal Procurement Agency (FPA) on all levels, technically and organisationally:
All solutions in FPA are based on industry standard Microsoft platforms, which ensure customer support, patches and further development. However, for all solutions absolute compatibility with all widely used operating and browser systems including reasonable backward compatibility was realised. This facilitated rapid dissemination and minimised user resistance.
The eShop is based on standard software by Healy Hudson which ensures constant development and maintenance as well as a strong 2nd level support. The solution had to be adapted to the public sector and the role of FPA as a mere mediator that offers framework contracts to buyers in other organisations. This adaptation entailed the handling of complex organisational assignments, release workflows, budget checks, proxy rules and SME friendly quota systems, most of which are irrelevant to private sector applications. Most of the adaptations, however, were included in the standard product of Healy Hudson and have become part of the vendor's standard release and quality assurance measures.
Prior to the awards procedure for the e-Shop solution, a simple e-Shop was piloted for one year with a very limited range of products, which enabled FPA to enter into the final selection of a solution with much more knowledge and discrimination. The future outsourcing partner (the Federal Computing Center) was involved in the awards procedure to ensure seamless integration of organisation, software and operations. On the same token, the system was audited in advance by the General Accounting Office and the Internal Revenue Service for compliance with the applicable legislation and the application is run in an ISO 27001 certified operations environment.
Offering a standard technical interface to the eShop based on BMEcat and standardised procedures facilitates the participation of SME with limited IT know-how; for many participating SME the eShop was the first contact with eProcurement and in conjunction with the training offered contributed to the "efitness" of Austrian SME. It also ensures that the FPA interfaces are compatible with the industry standard.
All agencies order from the same catalogue and use the same ordering interface to the vendors. Also, reporting on the orders issued via the e-Shop is centralised and hence standardised across agencies. This does not only concern the technical interface, but above all the use of unified semantics as far as products, product classes, regional codes etc. are concerned. This makes transactions by government agencies comparable and hence strengthens transparency and accountability of agencies.
The roll-out of Travi was a challenge as the software was originally designed as a specialist tool for travel agencies. However, adaptations to the software and user education contributed to the success of the booking tool in the public administration.
In all applications user training and support play an important role as they do not only facilitate usage of the applications, but they also ensure that agency staff knows and follows standard procedures as implemented in the software. Since due to price and processing cost savings more and more Federal Provinces and municipalities (which are nor legally obliged to use the system) increasingly join FPA, this standardisation is disseminating beyond federal agencies. Standardisation not only reduces costs, it also leverages experience and existing investments and hence reduces risks considerably.
Summarising, the FPA solutions have lead to a procedural and technical standardisation in Austrian public procurement which is unprecedented in the EU and beyond.