January 24, 2023 • Thought Leadership

Why Document Process Automation?

When we started City Innovate as a product company, we knew we wanted to tackle procurement. Government procurement is – as they say in Boston – wicked hard. At best, procurement is a byzantine process only a skilled professional with years of experience can tackle. At worst, procurement is a barrier to getting things done, making it impossible for government to acquire urgently needed technology + non-IT goods and services.

City Innovate believes that technology should be a force for social good in government. This is especially true when technology is applied to procurement. Procurement matters. It helps millions of people get what they need from government every day: update their drivers’ licenses, get healthcare and vaccines, or apply for low-income housing and other services.

In the early days of our company, we spent a lot of time talking to potential customers: CIOs, CPOs, agency leaders, procurement agents and contract officers. One key finding was that procurement took a long time because solicitations took a long time. They had to comply with the state’s demanding, very complex contracting standards.

We quickly realized that the single best way to accelerate procurement was to accelerate document production. Then, the light bulb went on – you know, the little cartoon one that hovers over everyone’s heads? The documents would always be complex. That became a given. Where we could make things a lot faster was by automating the business process flows around those complex document sets. Government doesn’t run on votes, or funding, or anything that abstract. Day-to-day, it runs on document sets.

Document Sets

When you do your taxes, you create a document set consisting of schedules, exhibits, and attachments – all of which vary a great deal depending on what is going on in your life. Bought a house? There’s a special schedule for that. Moved across the country to take a new job? There’s a schedule for that. And so on.

Procurement works the same way. Creating a solicitation that will result in the purchase of a database to hold data resulting from each point of contact with an unhoused person? There’s a document set for that. Will the proposed acquisition exceed $5M in spending? There may be an entirely different document set for that, combined with a different process with different workflows and different business logic.

Our platform for Document Process Automation enables everyone involved in a procurement to focus on the business need while relying on advanced technology to take on the heavy lifting involved in:

  • Generating the document set needed from smart templates, complete with business logic and workflows
  • Pulling in the exact language needed based on regulatory requirements
  • Harvesting relevant language from historical solicitations created in our platform – thus breaking down silos between departments and eliminating the need to search through SharePoint®
  • Including attachments and exhibits required by law
  • Inserting information across the document set that identifies the procurement uniquely. To do this, we integrate with your jurisdiction’s financial planning and administration (FPA) system of record
  • Inviting subject-matter experts to contribute to the solicitation
  • Keeping track of the tasks assigned to subject-matter experts, to keep the solicitation on schedule
  • Providing agency leaders and the C-suite with reports that show where each solicitation is on the path towards completion. Red-yellow-green reporting highlights project status and makes it easy for agency leaders to drill down and identify bottlenecks in the process
  • Providing decision logs that describe the decisions made and who made them across a multi-phased project. This is supremely important if these decisions are ever investigated or challenged
  • Serving as the ‘system of record’ for evaluating submissions received in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Application (RFA), or Request for Anything (RFx)

Our philosophy and approach is to put documents at the center of the processes we automate, so the skilled professionals that are responsible for driving the process can add their unique value. Enabling the skilled professionals involved to pay attention to higher-order tasks, the kinds of things that cannot be easily automated.

Our automated approach allows procurement officers to spend their time where it really matters: crafting a solicitation that gets to the heart of the problem government is trying to solve. With less time spent on data entry, reporting, task management, and compliance. With City Innovate’s platform for Document Process Automation, compliance automatically comes thanks to smart templates that incorporate your departments’ exact workflows and business logic.

In short, City Innovate’s goal is to automate work that is essential for compliance with your jurisdiction’s purchasing and contracting standards, leaving your skilled and experienced workforce to do what they do best. Apply their considerable know how, expertise, and creativity to only to that portion of the document set that cannot be automated.

Procurement is a team sport

Today, procurement is very much a team sport. Think of the specialized knowledge and expertise required to purchase a database to track COVID vaccines; this is just one example but there are many others. Our approach to Document Process Automation includes a focus on enabling fluid collaboration with a platform that:

  • Invites contributors and subject matter experts to lean in and provide their expertise in just a few clicks.
  • Assigns various tasks to contributors and set up automatic reminders so that every contributor stays on task and on deadline.

You’ll find our approach to Document Process Automation to be down to earth, practical, and yet forward looking. We are very much aware that advances in AI and machine learning are coming that promise to revolutionize how documents get produced, reviewed, approved, and processed inside government. We are making investments in these technologies accordingly and will incorporate advancements into our platform when it makes sense to do so.

Today, City Innovate’s focus is on expanding our solution set to accelerate not just procurement but also contracts and grants.