As many procurement professionals in the public and private sector may know, the first and sometimes hardest obstacle in compliance is finding the right people for your projects – and then reaching them. Equally as daunting to certified firms is the influx of bidding opportunities and solicitation emails, especially when it may be on the opposite spectrum of the services they perform.
With this challenge in mind, AXI software was developed with New York institutional clients to manage their diversity contracting. The tailored systematic process provides equal opportunity, helps build capacity and reduces some of the frictions inherent in State contracting by utilizing innovative technology to connect certified firms with the companies and public sector agencies and authorities that want to work with them.
Ensuring Comprehensive Inclusion
AXI’s automated software provides inclusion of both MWBE and SDVOB firms, while its Identify-Connect-Report process minimizes the risks and the time costs involved in ensuring each available diverse firm is given equal opportunity to compete on every project.
For public organizations, this identification phase is typically executed during their contract-specific goal setting phase. For private firms, it takes place at the beginning of their good faith efforts. However, different market participants using the public MWBE directory often find different results when looking for the same contractors. In the end, not every available certified MWBE is provided the equal opportunity to compete for every project. Only standardizing the regulatory guidelines into an Identify-Connect-Report software process ensures comprehensive inclusion on every project.
Identifying the Potential Partnership
In the Identify phase, AXI software auto-unbundles contracts to find the right MWBE partners for each scope using a unique industry code map, custom market areas strategies and enhanced business data. Cost estimates are uploaded and unbundled into individual scopes of work. Those are correlated into their appropriate industry codes for commercially useful functions and the unique market area requirements are applied. Final work-specific exclusions and filters can be applied, with searches at every step documented for future review and to support good faith efforts.
Ensuring Consistency to Maximize Efficiency
The importance of using the right industry codes is underscored by how only 10.1% of the MWBE Directory firms are identified using NAICS codes alone. To ensure consistency, AXI developed an industry code map that uses all available codes (NAICS + NIGP + CSI) to convert each scope of work into its official commercially useful functions. On average, each has nearly six industry codes assigned across all the available code sets.
The unique geographic sensitivity of each scope is a product of the type of work required and its dollar value. Some things are geographically insensitive and can be sourced from anywhere, while others must come from locally-based businesses. Likewise, high value opportunities can be sourced from a wide geographic area, while smaller ones would only attract local vendors or contractors.
Refining the Search Method
Regional search options are fine for many trades, but too often the politically drawn boundaries often meant that firms located close to the job site but across a regional boundary were not being excluded. Sometimes relying on firms’ state work regions can lead to suboptimal results. AXI developed additional search strategies for hybrid regions, county-level searches and a unique customizable radial search strategy.
The radial search has been important in providing the flexibility required for the geographically sensitive trades. With the project site defined, the radius can be set according to the unique business realities of the work required and the reasonable distance, e.g. the drive time. While in Long Island that may be 25 or 30 miles, in the North Country it may be 75 or 100. In the end, final search results can be further refined into the most accurate list of available partners.To help inform this, AXI has collected additional public data records on past participation, business size, licensing, and bonding. Tools are available to filter and provide justifications for exclusion if needed.
The Next Step for Strategic outreach
After the right pool of MWBEs has been identified, integrated good faith efforts outreach tools connect with those firms. Public and private buyers can issue campaigns from simple notifications to full requests for proposals or quotes to find their partners. The consolidated workflow eliminates the risks that otherwise exist when managing process across Excel spreadsheets and emails. The final statistics, response rates, and bids further support the capacity justifications and identify areas or targeted improvement.
As a result of many improvements to the goal setting process design and the value of an integrated technology, AXI System has launched a tailored systematic process that provides equal opportunity, helps build capacity, and reduces some of the frictions inherent in State contracting. AXI has been developed to respond to New York State goal setting, outreach and compliance requirements and has already been adopted by several New York State clients.
According to Pamela Y. Swanigan, M.P.A. Director of University-wide Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program at the State University of New York, “AXI has been a great partner to SUNY. AXI customized its platform to meet SUNY’s unique process and needs across 30 campuses, 20 auxiliaries, and hundreds of contracts. Now, SUNY is able to manage compliance and achieve goals faster and with fewer resources.”