Our Partner Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is known throughout the industry as a leader in innovation. We recently had the privilege of sitting down with one of the country’s foremost authorities on procurement, who offered her three critical keys to success. Michelle Verucchi, IT Manager for the Utah Department of Technology Services who is assigned to the UDOT, excels at the government procurement process – a process she has perfected during her 23 years with the State of Utah. In an exclusive interview, she revealed her formula for procurement efficiency and success to help the DOT achieve its various goals over the years:
- Develop a deep understanding of the transportation industry and the various innovations available
- Establish trusted interdepartmental relationships
- Leverage technology
Understanding the Industry and Innovations Available
Among the steps that have been critical to Michelle’s procurement process is establishing a deep understanding of the transportation industry and the various innovations available for the UDOT to complete projects in the most timely and cost-effective manner possible. When the request was received to purchase HeadLight’s photo-based inspection technology – a tool proven to create significant efficiencies by digitally capturing job site observations for project teams in real-time – Michelle initiated the procurement process by first researching the HeadLight product. Armed with an understanding of the innovation needed, she was able to reach out for the required comparative quotes from two relevant resellers in a thoughtful and intelligent way.
As with most states and local municipal governments, multiple quotes from resellers are required as part of the procurement process. For this particular need, Michelle identified three resellers that the State of Utah has on contract. She reached out to each one requesting vendor quotes and final quotes with the reseller markup included. Michelle then evaluated all quotes together, specifically focused on cost. She typically has to go with the lowest cost quote. In the case of the HeadLight procurement, Michelle received one “no-bid” from a reseller. For the State of Utah, as long as Michelle has attempted to get more than one quote, she is meeting their procurement rules.
Her understanding of the technology needed by UDOT also helped her have informed conversations with their Division of Technology Innovation – a mini IT world within the UDOT focused on data analytics and product research if the technology needed can’t be developed in-house.
Michelle’s position and expertise in procurement is one that requires her to not only understand new transportation industry technologies that now saturate the market, but she also has to be trusted to effectively communicate with senior management regarding the best innovation decisions.
Establishing Trusted Interdepartmental Relationships
The Utah DOT is unique in that important innovation investments are not required to follow the long procurement process as other needs, and are instead assigned to an IT Manager like Michelle right from the start. Despite the fast-forward provided for innovation-related needs, Michelle still leans on relationships she’s cultivated to move the process forward as quickly as possible. She cites the never-ending requests for expedited procurements as the primary reason for ensuring healthy, supportive relationships exist between her and other departments.
Michelle says the purchase of HeadLight’s photo-based inspection technology by UDOT is the perfect example of when solid internal relationships become helpful. She received an email stating the purchase was needed by the end of the month in order to receive a pricing benefit– and unfortunately, the timing coincided with the holiday season when many of her colleagues are taking vacation time.
After securing the quotes, ensuring the funding was available and obtaining the accounting stream to keep the project moving, Michelle found herself at a standstill due to her primary UDOT contact for authorization being on vacation. The end-of-month deadline was looming, and her goal had been to get the purchase order in place by December 24. Michelle was forced to email her UDOT contact during the Christmas holiday. Fortunately, due to their positive working relationship, he prioritized her email, met with her for 15 minutes and provided the approval she needed.
From there, she worked her way down a checklist of additional approvers, making sure to communicate to each that their approval was high-priority due to an end-of-month timeline. Again, she was able to proceed through the final approvals leveraging her relationships – despite most of them also being away for the Christmas holiday.
“I’m a big proponent of learning about new technologies that will best serve the UDOT and deliver a positive outcome for the people of Utah, and I understand that’s not very common among people in procurement roles,” said Michelle. “But in my case, being armed with all the details about HeadLight and how it would benefit the UDOT was crucial. In this situation, in addition to leveraging my relationships, I made it easy for them to quickly understand the need, the product and the immediate turn-around needed.”
Michelle is also a big proponent of giving credit where credit is due. She understands that most procurement needs passing through her are something the requesting department wants quickly. From department heads who need to authorize purchases, to accounting personnel who make it happen, she’s always sure to send an email of gratitude after, along the lines of “You did an awesome job for me. I really appreciate it.”
Leveraging Procurement Technology
In addition to being well-versed in technology that benefits Utah’s transportation infrastructure, Michelle has stayed on top of technology that helps each procurement proceed efficiently and seamlessly.
She utilizes software called ServiceNow, a system developed for procurement managers that allows them to:
- Track service catalog requests
- Create and manage purchase orders
- Create and manage transfer orders
- Receive and inventory assets
ServiceNow has allowed Michelle to create workflows of automatic emails, meaning once a project is approved by one individual, the next approver automatically receives it via email – all the way up the line to individuals at the State Capitol and those who will actually implement the work.
The UDOT has also implemented Adobe Sign to expedite the procurement process, which is a significant advancement since when Michelle started with the State of Utah, the process was done entirely on paper with manual signatures required.
These smart uses of technology to streamline the procurement process are something other states and local governments should take note of, as many are still utilizing Excel and paper forms – adding unnecessary time to each procurement. Michelle recalls a pre-technology time when she would need to drive to the State Capitol to get things processed or pickup checks for vendors that had been waiting weeks to receive payment.
Despite Michelle’s tried and true methods for procurement efficiency and success, there are two aspects of the process that will never go away – waiting and follow-up. Managing multiple procurements at once means she’s always waiting on someone and there’s always a healthy list of follow-ups to be done. But with understanding technology and leveraging her vast relationships, she always gets the job done.