Pittsburgh Improves Procurement Process with Tech Partnership

Following an in-depth analysis of the city’s current processes, the fellows have launched 3 digital tools to streamline and open up the procurement process

City of Pittsburgh

Mayor William Peduto, the City of Pittsburgh Department of Innovation & Performance and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) celebrated the completion of the Code For America (CFA) Fellowship Program that improved the City of Pittsburgh’s procurement process.

“The Code for America Fellowship has played an important role in our efforts to transform procurement,” said Mayor William Peduto. “Thanks to the efforts of our fellows and OMB staff, we have made the process more efficient, equitable, effective and accessible than ever before.”

Since the CFA launch in February, the fellows have been exploring city procurement: the complicated process by which the government buys everything from office supplies to fire trucks, and organizes public bids and requests for proposals from interested vendors. Following an in-depth analysis of the city’s current processes, the fellows have launched 3 digital tools to streamline and open up the City of Pittsburgh’s procurement process.


Beacon is a free online service that notifies businesses about City contract opportunities and provides information about how to apply for them. Business owners looking for opportunities to sell goods and services to the City of Pittsburgh now have a central web resource with Beacon. With this free service interested business owners can subscribe for free email notifications about relevant opportunities. Content about opportunities is developed by departmental staff and contract bids are managed by OMB.

To date, over 350 businesses have registered for Beacon since the September launch of the Pittsburgh Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation. A recent Department of Parks and Recreation RFP posted to Beacon by the procurement team resulted in 10 responses from interested businesses, which is 4-5 times the average response rate in the past.

“The Beacon procurement application will help OMB to fulfill its vision for the procurement organization,” said said Sam Ashbaugh, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. “Our goal is to establish a customer-focused process to achieve increased procurement effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance. The result is significant financial benefit for taxpayers by reducing the costs of acquiring goods and services and increasing competition and opportunities for vendors to do business with the city.”

Scout and Conductor

In addition to developing improvements to the public portion of the procurement process, the CFA fellows also designed improvements to essential elements of the city’s internal processes.

Scout is an online tool for city staff to quickly identify and subscribe to contracts currently in place. The implementation of Scout reduces the time it takes to look up contract information and keeps city staff informed of changes to contracts when purchasing goods and services that are key to many city programs. Since the May 22, 2015 launch of Scout, employees across city departments have subscribed to over 100 different contracts.

Conductor is a workflow management tool that tracks contracts through renewal, bidding, and extension processes. Conductor is primarily utilized by purchasing agents in OMB.

Conductor connects and integrates previously separate databases, improving communication throughout the procurement process. Changes made to contracts in Conductor instantly update on Scout, notifying all staff members associated with the contract of relevant changes. Contracts entering the bidding phase can be posted by agents directly to Beacon.


Since the CFA partnership began in February, the fellows met with over 60 City of Pittsburgh employees and 30 local businesses in an effort to understand internal city processes, city employee needs and a business owner’s experience interacting with the city. Beacon, Scout, and Conductor were developed by building web applications in response to internal employee and external business needs. The tools have been tested and refined based on user feedback.

The fellows are underwritten with generous support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The City of Pittsburgh paid $100,000 to cover a portion of the partnership and the R.K. Mellon Foundation provided $330,000.

In addition to working with CFA, OMB engaged the National Institute of Government Purchasing (NIGP) consulting program to 1) conduct a review of the city’s procurement policies and procedures and 2) provide recommendations for improvement to reflect leading public sector procurement practices. In conjunction with the CFA initiative focused on leveraging technology, the NIGP Consulting review was intended to help OMB properly manage the procurement function, enable operational improvements and improve and increase accountability throughout the process. This past August, Mayor William Peduto issued an executive order outlining nine provisions for strengthening the City’s budget controls, many based on recommendations from the NIGP.

About Code For America

Code for America is a national non-profit that believes government can work for the people, by the people, in the 21st century. In collaboration with communities, companies, and government, CFA builds open source technology and organizes a network of people dedicated to making government services simple, effective, and easy to use. More at www.codeforamerica.org.

Code for America receives generous support from Omidyar Network, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Google.org, the James Irvine Foundation, and many other foundations, corporations, and individual donors that support national and local CFA programs.

CFA pairs local governments with teams of mid-career, civic-minded technology experts for one year. The governments and fellows explore answers to local challenges by engaging with the community, building applications, and testing the results. Over the past four years, the Fellowship program has produced more than 55 web apps with 30 municipal governments and 103 Fellows.

Eight government partners, from a diverse pool of more than 40, were selected for the 2015 Fellowship. In addition to Pittsburgh, they include: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Indianapolis, Indiana; Miami-Dade County, Florida; Somerville, Massachusetts; Vallejo, California; West Sacramento, California; and RVA Community Partners in Richmond, Virginia.

Meet the Code for America Fellows:

Patrick Hammons, is a cartographer and civic hacker passionate about making data more accessible both visually and through online applications. As a GIS analyst for the City of Philadelphia's Office of Innovation and Technology, Patrick prepared maps, visualizations, and data releases. Patrick also co-founded MaptimePHL and is an active member of Code for Philly.

Shelly Ni is a designer focused on improving public services. As a co-founder of Propel, she designed a food stamp application that works on any smartphone. For her MFA thesis, she created guides to apply for social security cards and state IDs. She holds design degrees from the School of Visual Arts and Stanford.

Ben Smithgall is a developer originally from Pine Township. After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in Public Policy, Ben worked on the digital and data teams for the re-election campaign for Obama for America in 2012. Following that, Ben joined Spotify and worked on both analytics and data projects.

Hammons, Ni and Smithgall are part of a cohort of 24 Fellows taking leave from jobs at large and small tech companies, their own businesses and government to use their skills for good during a year of public service.

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