Government: Washington County Automates Contract Approval Process
Washington County, one of three counties making up the greater Portland Metropolitan Area, covers 727 square miles and is home to a population of approximately 500,000. Many major corporations, including Intel, IBM, Tektronix, Nike, and Columbia Sportswear, are also located in Washington County. A surge in population growth over the last 20 years has led the County to focus on infrastructure improvements and services to support residents and businesses.
The Client's Need
Washington County processes approximately 1000 vendor contracts per year throughout its various divisions. Because of the contract solicitation, acceptance, approval, and review processes required of government entities, contracts follow a complex routing through a number of people who must perform their task and physically move the contract file on to the next person in the chain. The process included a very manual set of steps, typically spanning over the course of 5-10 business days, and involved a good deal of labor and energy to move the file from station to station - and in many cases, from building to building.
Bill Gamble, Management Analyst for Washington County, began an online search for a Web-based system to help automate this manual, time-consuming process. According to Gamble, a Web-based system was preferred because of the simple launch process, efficient operation, and minimal required maintenance.
How HighOrbit Helped
Gamble found HighOrbit through his web search. "HighOrbit allowed me to try it right away through a free account. There was nothing to set up, and I didn't have to spend a lot of time with sales and technical people to get my trial underway," said Gamble. Gamble had researched several other process and document management solutions in addition to HighOrbit, but felt that everything else had a set of obstacles for implementation. "Other solutions I reviewed were either too costly, required too much overhead to install, or too many bells and whistles that we didn't need and that made the systems too complicated. HighOrbit is totally straightforward and clean. It worked right away."
All parties involved in the contract approval process, including the outside vendor, are using HighOrbit as part of a pilot project to manage all tasks, verifications, and documents related to each of the County's contracts. Items managed through HighOrbit include contract number and status, description, amount, payment terms, budget to be charged, expiration date, and a number of other details. In addition, HighOrbit serves as an electronic repository for documentation related to the contract, such as the contract itself, insurance certificates, and other county paperwork.
"All of the items tracked in HighOrbit are vital to our contract processing and approval system," said Gamble. "We were able to get buy-in very quickly because everyone, including vendors, saw the benefits HighOrbit would bring. Plus, the technical part is so easy. I was able to use the system right away - there simply were no technical obstacles to overcome. Even those who are not technically inclined picked it up quickly, and many have even begun using the Process Designer to create new processes in the system."
Washington County is experiencing the benefit of HighOrbit in several critical ways:
- Time Savings: Because of the manual nature of the process, contract approval previously spanned the course of 5-10 business days. After the implementation of HighOrbit, contracts are approved in 1-2 days.
- Cost and Energy Savings: HighOrbit has greatly increased the efficiency of Washington County's contract approval process, significantly reducing the costs associated with physically moving files and papers from place to place. This cost reduction includes labor, fuel, and delivery expenses, among others.
- Consolidation of Information: HighOrbit serves as the single, electronic tracking system for all information related to a contract. Contract information and all related documentation are available through a few quick clicks, and are stored securely within High Orbit.
- Enhanced Security: Because HighOrbit operates in a secure, SSL encrypted environment, the County's contract information and documentation now resides in a protected system.
- Accountability: HighOrbit ensures that all steps along the approval path are followed, and that all information is entered into the system before the next task can occur. In addition, contract approval status is always easily accessible. If a contract hits a roadblock in the process, it can be quickly identified and addressed.
"Everyone likes the system," said Gamble, "and the folks and HighOrbit have been very responsive and helpful." Washington County began a pilot program of HighOrbit for contract approval in select departments, and will continue to expand the program to include more departments.