Blog

A 5th dimension: Why we decided to add internal efficiency as a new use case

26 Apr 2018

By Katherine Wikrent

Foto: Early internal efficiency gains thanks to the first computers. National Archives Catalogue, ID: 594262.

“But why should I invest in open contracting?” That’s the question that new potential data publishers all ask us inevitably in one of our first conversations. It is a terrific question; after all, open contracting requires governments to commit to a technical push to shift from reactive to proactive publication and also to engagement with users from across sectors. For all that work, it better be worth it!

We knew from the beginning that for open contracting to be successful, we had to think about the information different users were looking for: What would they use open contracting data for? What data would help them meet a specific goal? We call these “use cases” (although we sometimes draw criticism from technical experts since we use the term slightly differently from its standard definition). We identified four principle use cases, which were applicable across so many different contexts that they became the building blocks of our open contracting work and the design of the Open Contracting Data Standard: value for money, market opportunity, public integrity, and service delivery monitoring.

When we dived deep into these four use cases, we realized that internal efficiency was often one of the main arguments mentioned by public procurement agencies for wanting to adopt open contracting. It became the 5th dimension of our core use cases. Internal efficiency helps governments to drive best procurement practices and systems while reducing the resources needed, such as money or personnels’ time.

For example, a procurement agency might want to conduct tenders that attract great bidders without incurring time delays or transactional costs. Another instance could be streamlining internal processes without duplicating efforts along the five phases of the contracting process. Two open contracting champions we interviewed for the use case research guide who named internal efficiency as one of their main use cases for open contracting were Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) (India) and government of the City of Montreal (Montreal).

Want a sneak peek of how to start thinking about internal efficiency in open contracting? Here’s what our newest use case looks like in practice and some sample indicators.

Internal Efficiency

What: Information about the public procurement process can give government insight into potential opportunities for improving inefficiencies to save time and other internal resources

Why: Governments want to ensure their financial, time, and human resource investments into open contracting ultimately result in more efficient and effective procurement procedures

How: Data of interest for internal efficiency include the time between phases of the contracting process and price differences between phases of the contracting process, such as:

  • Dates along the five phases of the contracting process, to note any very short or long phases or time periods between phases
  • Planned and actual dates of milestones, to compare time overruns and underruns
  • Planned budget and actual expenditures, to compare financial overruns and underruns
  • Contract status, to know if a contract was successfully completed, and on what date the status changed
  • Location of delivery, to see where a service or good should have been delivered and track if it actually was
  • Subcontracting information, to analyze which party should deliver each portion of the contract
  • Evaluation reports and documents, to know about the quality of both the contracting process and the in-progress or completed good or service

Sample indicators:

Indicator Calculation OCDS fields needed
Time from tender period close date to contract start date Contract start date – tender close date contracts/period/startDate; tender/tenderPeriod/endDate
Percent of contracts which are canceled Canceled contracts / all contracts contracts/status

How are you measuring internal efficiency? What other data points are you looking at? We’d love to learn more about your experience to make sure this is useful.

Let me know your thoughts as we further develop our use case guides and tools.  

(Check out our full Use Case Indicator to OCDS mapping and filter by “Internal Efficiency,” or any of our other four use cases! Also, make sure to check out our guidance on how to read the mapping.)