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Dashing to Results: New FAS Dashboard Improves Procurement Efficiency

Seattle is the recipient of a $1 million Bloomberg Procurement Transformation Grant, a partnership between the Department of Finance and Administrative Services and the Mayor’s Innovation and Performance Team, with technical assistance from the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab. The project aims to transform City procurement to be more efficient, results-driven, equitable, and strategic. As part of this, the City is highlighting a multi-part series of stories that demonstrate citywide promising practices that can better support our WMBEs. This month’s feature highlights the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The City of Seattle executes hundreds of purchases annually in response to requests from the dozens of departments that make up municipal government. Translating a departmental ask into a contract or purchase order is the job of Purchasing Manager Krista Díaz, who oversees a team of 12 Contract Administrators in the City’s Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) Purchasing and Contracting division. For purchases of goods and services, these Contract Administrators work with departments to develop the specifications for a competitive solicitation and put it out to bid. This work is the key to ensuring that Seattle successfully procures some $350 million annually of goods and services.

Until recently, however, Díaz had no easy way to determine how many solicitations any given member of her team had in the queue. She also had to field recurring questions from departments: Where’s my purchase order? When will I be able to use my contract? What’s the status of my request?

To improve this request process, Harvard Government Performance Lab Fellow Neil Maheshwari and FAS Business Process Analyst Pat Malai of the Masterworks team joined forces to develop and launch the Procurement Status Dashboard. The dashboard consists of two displays: one internal to the Purchasing team and another available for departments to view.

The internal dashboard allows Díaz and her team to see at a glance who has the bandwidth to take on new procurement requests. “It’s been infinitely helpful for new procurements because we have had an extraordinarily high number of new requests,” Díaz said. Her team is typically working on 70-80 new procurement requests at any given time. This is in addition to their day-to-day work managing the over 1,100 blanket contracts that are available for City departments to procure goods or services without needing to initiate a new contract.

The departmental dashboard, meanwhile, has reduced time spent on correspondence and status checks. Instead of needing to ping Díaz or her team for a status update, a city employee can check the dashboard to see how their project is moving along.

Screenshot of the Procurement Status Dashboard, which shows options to filter by department and status, and displays a bar chart showing number of requests by status and a pie chart showing number of requests by procurement type
Employees can filter the dashboard by department or status and search by number to check the status of their own requests.

“It helps make our workload visible to others,” said Díaz. “Some departments might not realize we’re working on 10-15 projects for them.”

These kinds of tools eliminate administrative burden on City employees while also fostering a spirit of open government. “The dashboard was made to promote transparency,” said Maheshwari.

While the internal dashboard has already become integral to the Purchasing and Contracting team at FAS, uptake has been a little slower for the departmental dashboard. But now, when Díaz is asked “Where’s my request?”, she can reply with a simple response: a link to the dashboard, where the answer is available for all to see.

Learn more about the Procurement Transformation project, and stay up to date by signing up for the Innovation & Performance newsletter. You can follow Seattle Finance and Administrative Services on X @SeattleFAS or check out the FAS blog.  

Read more stories about promising practices in Seattle’s work to make City contracting more efficient, results-driven, equitable, and strategic: