The Grill: Clifford Gronauer


What made your RFP process economically beneficial? We threw a couple things in there that made it different. Rather than asking for the sun, the moon and stars, we wanted the basic off-the-shelf software cost, and if and when we determined we needed any kind of customization, we would handle those requests separately at a later date. We found that a lot of agencies that did these projects laid out their requirements and the vendors bid the project all at one time. By eliminating all of that up front, we got a very economical cost factor from all of the vendors. Then we've been very selective in the upgrades or customizations that we required. And in several of those instances, we were able to convince the vendors that if you build this for us, it would be a very useful enhancement for the rest of your customers, so we were able to get some of our customizations done at no additional charge. The other thing we did was we built the RFPs under the initial assumption that the state would be the primary user but that, if possible, we'd like to be able to offer this as a service to other [ agencies in the state]. Vendors saw it as an opportunity and gave us a deal up front.

What were the biggest rewards in upgrading all five at once? The biggest rewards were making the road officers more efficient. It really made a tremendous reduction in the amount of clerical work that the officers had to do.

What was the biggest challenge? Procurement. Most of my career has been in the private sector, and purchasing is very different in a government setting. It's filled with red tape and other challenges. I can see why they're there, but it really delays and makes things more difficult.

Is there something in that process that others can learn from? The biggest challenge we were up against was being very careful about a couple of words: must and shall. You have to be very careful about how those get applied, because those two words imply require. So something that might have been a very desirable feature or component, if you put must and shall [and] someone cannot offer that, they automatically become disqualified. We actually had folks going through the RFPs to highlight those words, and then we went through them one at a time and asked, "Is that really what we want?" because once you disqualify a vendor, that's it, they're out of the picture.

What were the keys to leading your IT staff through such an undertaking? There were some folks who were really supportive and excited about doing something new, different, better. And you had some who were very fearful, asking "What am I going to do now?" So we had to go through that assurance program with those folks to let them know we'd provide whatever training to get them up to speed, that we were going to make that investment because the biggest hurdle on these things is the . I can take someone who knows all about the criminal justice system and how the data flows and train them on the new technology and I'm way ahead of the curve than with someone who knows the technology but has no clue on how police work goes.