Successful E-Contracting Initiative Starts with Preparation

By Susan Avery

June 03, 2015 at 11:27 AM

A quick poll of the audience at the recent webcast, Replace Click to Print with Click to Sign in Your E-Contracting Process, found that few of the procurement professionals and others attending are currently using tools to automate contracting.  

steve simpson.jpgIn one hour, the webcast attendees learned how a peer, Steve Simpson, Project Acquisition Manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), put together a requirements list, executed a supplier selection process, and is now realizing benefits of paperless contracting, including hard and soft cost savings. 

JPL is a federally funded research and development facility managed by the California Institute of Technology for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

In his role, Simpson oversees all IT services and subcontracts that move through JPL Acquisition; he represents Acquisition to the office of the CIO. He’s also known as the Technical Team Lead for eliminating paper from the acquisition process at JPL.

“It’s working extremely well,” Simpson said of the new e-contracting process that’s currently being rolled out beyond Acquisition to the entire laboratory. “One of the successes is improved collaboration.”

The webcast, Replace Click to Print with Click to Sign in Your E-Contracting Process, is now available for viewing on demand at My Purchasing Center. e-SignLive by Silanis is webcast sponsor. 

Time to Automate

In the webcast, Simpson said that Acquisition began a paperless contracting initiative, Interactive Acquisition Network, for several reasons. One is a JPL forecast of the workforce in 2025. It finds mobility and telecommuting trends growing and stronger in 10 years. JPL will be reconfiguring office space as the laboratory adds employees, and hardware and software will continue to change. “Younger people have different expectations,” he said. “We want to be prepared in Acquisition.” 

Simpson described a contracting process, familiar to procurement professionals who work in government agencies and commercial enterprises, that’s very paper intensive. “We have to document lots of different parts of the process,” he said. People are saving multiple copies. When using paper, it’s very difficult to share files and collaborate.” Concerns going forward also included shorter NASA missions which translate into faster turnaround time that Acquisition has to support. Others issues are archiving data and security. 

Simpson created a vision statement that describes an electronic process from requisition through close that eliminates paper and could be used across JPL and its business partners. He set an aggressive schedule, looking to complete the project in less than two years, at low cost using existing tools, systems and standards already in place and ones Acquisition wanted to roll out. 

Then Simpson streamlined the process.

Acquisition works closely with the CIO’s office on the initiative. In fact, the office provided leadership and researched best practices for digital signing. With the information, “we put together our requirements for taking a look at choices for possible partners in the process of e-signing,” Simpson said.

requirements list.pngIn the webcast, he shared a list of the requirements the team put together, calling out “must have,” “should have,” “would like to have.”  Among the “must-have” requirements: ease of use, financial stability, security, confidentiality and multiple signatures. (To view the image, please click on it to enlarge.)

The team searched for a partner, ultimately selecting e-SignLive by Silanis.

Value of E-Signatures for E-Contracting

So far, what’s been successful? As Simpson sees it, seeking buy-in of Acquisition and its technical customers is key. More than 50 people are involved. The team did lots of communication and it worked to meet that aggressive schedule. 

In addition to helping to eliminate paper, satisfying internal customers and hard and cost savings (the office is using fewer printers), Simpson says the initiative is helping Acquisition to prepare for an important audit coming up in which NASA reviews the procurement system and certifies it as one they can continue to use in the future. 

“It’s lengthy and detailed,” he said. “From the beginning we knew we couldn’t so something that would jeopardize this. We are awaiting this to show them everything we’ve done. We think it will turn out quite well.” 

the value of e-signatures.pngAt the start of the webcast, Mary Ellen Power, Vice President, Marketing for e-SignLive by Silanis, welcomed attendees, and provided information on the value of e-signatures for electronic contracting as well as adoption trends. She also shared three short case studies on the Government Services Administration (GSA); Premier, an alliance of 3,000 hospitals and 100,000 providers; and the state of Vermont. (To view the image, please click on it to enlarge.)

For more information on eSignLive by Silanis, please use this link:

View the webcast on demand, Replace Click to Print with Click to Sign in Your E-Contracting Processes












Tags: purchasing Supply chain management Procurement Technology sourcing contracts
Category: News Article

Susan Avery


Susan Avery is Editor-in-Chief at My Purchasing Center. She writes articles, blogs and white papers and manages and creates other content for the online procurement and supply management publication. She produces and moderates roundtable discussions, podcasts, webcasts and video interviews. Susan has 30 years experience covering procurement and supply management for Purchasing magazine and 

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