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Jeff Arbogast, Application Specialist for one the nation’s Top 10 Digital Counties, story tells Washtenaw County, Michigan’s journey from their RFP beginnings of email, frustrating document size restrictions, manual uploads, and various versions floating between departments to their now centralized, transparent and well-orchestrated OnBase-hosted RFP management process.

Walk through this conversation with a notepad in-hand as Jeff starts at the top, walking us through the intake process with electronic forms and how proposals are then circulated across departments via an automated workflow. Listeners will hear how simple capabilities, such as attaching related documents, performing redactions, accounting for protest opportunities and housing large files in a digital system rather than printing and filing, turn into significant time and money savers. OnBase then carries Washtenaw’s RFP process to completion by generating records for the people that were awarded and not awarded, and automatically sending out emails to each person who gave a bid. It also triggers staff to send out paper copies of the decision, and to publish it on the website.

You’ll be amazed at the opportunities and savings Washtenaw’s digital RFP management process supports, and even more so that it was all built using standard, OnBase tools.

Check out this episode!

READ THE TRANSCRIPT

Steve Glisky:

Welcome to the Paperless Productivity Podcast, where we have experts give you the insights, know-how and resources to help you transform your workplace from paper to digital, all while making your work life better at the same time.

Steve Glisky:

Thanks for joining us. My name is Steve Glisky, your host. And today we’re going to be talking with Washtenaw County about their RFP Management Solution that they configured using OnBase. Washtenaw has been recognized many times as a top 10 digital County. The County seat is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and today’s special guest is Jeff Arbogast, who is an application specialist with the county. Welcome, Jeff.

Jeff Arbogast:

Thank you, Steve.

Steve Glisky:

Hey Jeff, so tell me what kind of challenges was Washtenaw experiencing with your prior RFP management process?

Jeff Arbogast:

Okay, so the prior process included a lot of manual things like email manually uploading everything to the county websites, and they didn’t really have an organized management process for the RFP process. There would be a lot of emails going back and forth. There probably be multiple versions of the RFP document and that could cause quite a bit of confusion since the department and purchasing and sometimes even risk management, et cetera, have to be involved in the process. Being able to digitalize the process has made it more organized with proper steps, with a proper way to send the entire request back if changes are needed and has brought structure to the system.

Steve Glisky:

Yes. And I imagine with emails there’s size restrictions, there’s a lot of bad things that happened with emails when you’re trying to attach documents to it.

Jeff Arbogast:

Correct. When you’re trying to… Especially our parks and rec department and our facilities departments occasional do need to have construction projects and construction RFPs. So they have to upload drawings and a lot of the times, those drawings are too large or were too large for our previous website. I’m not sure about the current one, but it’s still a little bit easier to store them in a document management system and have them basically sent out using public access instead of storing them on our web server.

Steve Glisky:

And I know OnBase also has a good way of supporting drawings and things like that different-

Jeff Arbogast:

When I say… OnBase is our system that we use for storing the documents. So I should have said OnBase instead of the ECM Enterprise Content Management.

Steve Glisky:

So, this is a far reaching type application, right? This touches every department?

Jeff Arbogast:

It touches every department for RFPs and contracts. So, some departments have many more RFPs and contracts than others, like for example, the department I’m in which includes facilities and IT has by far the most RFPs and the most contracts followed by parks and rec and community and economic development. There are departments like the prosecutor’s office that might only have two or three contracts per year that they do, whereas we do two or three contracts a week sometimes.

Steve Glisky:

Okay. Jeff, could you describe your decision-making process as far as whether or not to purchase a prepackaged solution or configure your own using OnBase?

Jeff Arbogast:

So our process isn’t as well-refined. I’d like to share with you, what our colleagues at the city of Ann Arbor have done. Jake Chase, who’s the lead over there for both OnBase and for SharePoint has set up a document where they ask a bunch of questions so that they can figure out whether it’s an OnBase project, a SharePoint project, or whether they need another application for it, for example, short-term versioning, whether they need signing, et cetera. For us, we don’t have a document though. I think my boss and I want to look at their document. We may try to implement our own version of it because I really liked the idea. Anything that requires a large amount of documents to be stored for a long time, or even if it’s a small amount of documents for a long time, we’ve been using OnBase. Anything that requires an intense workflow process, we have also been trying to use OnBase for too, which is why we’ve been expanding it in housing some of our workflow, like for our public defender, et cetera, and our request for proposal a few years back.

Steve Glisky:

Okay. I appreciate you walking us through that decision-making tree there. Could you give us an overview of your new OnBase, RFP Management Solution, how that works?

Jeff Arbogast:

So right now, it uses an eForm. If it was designed today, I think we would use WorkView instead of an eForm, but people first request an RFP number and request the template because the RFP template changes quite a bit as policies changed in the county or as the board gives new initiatives, for example, local vendor preference and they just did one with the contractors also. So that changed our RFP quite a bit. So they fill out what date they want, who’s doing the RFP and the request gets sent to purchasing. Purchasing assigns a buyer and generates the request for proposal initial documents and then after that, those initial documents are sent back to the department in Word document form so that they can edit them in OnBase, have multiple versions of it if they need to roll it back and get it set up for how they want the RFP to view.

Jeff Arbogast:

And in OnBase, they also have a way to attach supporting documentation, et cetera, so that it’s all stored in the work folder and are related to that request. Once they’re done with their request, it’s sent back to purchasing so that they can publish the RFP and send out notifications through the state system, through the newspaper, et cetera, about the RFP. And then once we get our bids back, they’re uploaded OnBase. If people want to, they can use OnBase as a collaborative tool because we have created sticky notes for them to be able to place things on different pages and comment on things and we’ve also set up the documents we fully text index using Autonomy IDOL, so that they could Word search through those documents because some of those documents are hundreds of pages long if it’s a really long RFP.

Jeff Arbogast:

I know that for example, when we were looking for a system to replace our ticketing system, some of the documents that came back were hundreds of pages long. So making multiple copies of that instead of storing it digitally in one place would cost a lot more money, paper, ink, et cetera when we can just store it in OnBase, search for what we want to search for and view the document. There are still some people that prefer a printed version, but I think what we did is we keep one printed version than the office and if somebody wants to come and grab it, they can, otherwise they use the digital version.

Jeff Arbogast:

Once the winner is picked, all that information is put into OnBase in the eForm and a scoring sheet is uploaded to OnBase so that purchasing can do a final decision and post it because they also upload, they use OnBase to generate the records for the people that were awarded and not awarded and have them automatically sent out to the emails of each person that gave the bid as well as sending out a paper copy. And then it’s also published to the website.

Steve Glisky:

Wow. So Jeff, you took a process that… you’ve standardized a very kind of unstructured process and you’ve given a great deal of transparency over the process across the entire county, so for four year purposes and that I imagine this is a very valuable type enhancement that you’ve made to your system.

Jeff Arbogast:

So we even made sure that any bids can be viewed by any county employee that logs into OnBase, whether they use OnBase or not, they have access to certain RFP and contract documents so that they can look them up so that the transparency for the employees is there. As far as FOIA go, if it’s on those documents and they’ve had to do a few, I’ve created a workflow for them to be able to redact the bids to the vendors, to what the vendor wants redacted and be able to do that right in OnBase using… we don’t even use the redaction toolkit. We use the revision and the drawing boxes, et cetera.

Steve Glisky:

Yeah, just using the standard tools within your OnBase system.

Jeff Arbogast:

Yeah, and then creating versions that have blacked out areas and then we burn that in as one image, so that things under it can’t be seen because I’ve seen things redacted incorrectly before.

Steve Glisky:

Now, after the RFP has been awarded, there’s a period of time where it could be contested. Does your workflow account for that as well?

Jeff Arbogast:

Yes, it does. We have a queue that holds for protest. If there is a protest that’s imported into the system, everything routes to corporation counsel. Corporation counsel creates their reply and uploads into OnBase, where it’s sent for the county administrator to sign and go out both via email and via mail.

Steve Glisky:

Wow. Since you already had contract management in place, this seems like just a natural fit that flows right into that after it’s been awarded, then you move right into contracts.

Jeff Arbogast:

That’s correct. In that way, everything stays in one system, especially since our new financial system doesn’t have a very good module for either of these.

Steve Glisky:

Terrific. So OnBase is filling the gap then where those line of business applications fall short.

Jeff Arbogast:

That is correct.

Steve Glisky:

What is the benefit of you being able to customize it and tailor it to the unique needs of the county?

Jeff Arbogast:

Yep. And even after something’s already gone live, we change it all the time. We have over 100 workflows that are currently in production in OnBase. We have some that are out of production that were used in the past, but at least 100 are being used currently. We are always those workflows. There are some that are left just about all the way alone and then some that we change every other month to fulfill changes in their process. So it makes it nice that OnBase allows workflows to be changed so easily.

Steve Glisky:

Fantastic. Hey Jeff, how long has your RFP Management Solution been in place and what kind of feedback are you receiving?

Jeff Arbogast:

Three years, I think is what it’s been in place, maybe four. We got off to a rocky start because we didn’t do as good of a job viewing there their processes and getting their process recorded as we thought we did and we missed quite a few extra things that can happen in the process that we had to find ways to add in like rebids this and what happens if nobody’s awarded et cetera, et cetera. So we’ve had to take things that were originally out of scope, including RFIs that we needed to store in OnBase and add them to the project. So it really increased the… oh, not RFIs requests. Yeah, was RFIs and also requests for quotes. So it’s really changed the scope of the project and we had quite a bit of scope creep, but once we were able to get all the things we needed into it, they’ve been quite satisfied the last couple of years.

Steve Glisky:

Everything is electronic and flowing into OnBase from your public website as well when vendors go up to your website and they are searching for particular RFPs and responding to RFPs?

Jeff Arbogast:

We did not do the responding part because the board didn’t want to make that part digital. That is something I would like to do in the future to give them a way to electronically submit those instead of having to physically walk them to the county, but currently, we do not have that in the process.

Steve Glisky:

Understand. So that’s a future enhancement then?

Jeff Arbogast:

Correct.

Steve Glisky:

Okay, fantastic. So Jeff, I’m very impressed with all the great work that you’re doing at Washtenaw. Thank you so much for being on the call today. Really appreciate your time. Hey, for our listeners, we appreciate you downloading this podcast. Thank you and have a great day.

 

Steve Glisky:

Thanks again for joining us on this podcast. To learn more about ImageSoft, please visit imagesoftinc.com, that’s imagesoftinc.com. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity, where we care for some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.