Digital-Forward Procurement: Rick Gay from Spring Branch Independent School District

Procurement teams in every industry felt the shockwaves of the pandemic—and many were propelled to make big changes at warp speed. Like most organizations, Spring Branch Independent School District had to close down and shift to remote work. But as a district serving more than 35,000 students, they had to adapt quickly with digital tools and a centralized purchasing model.

We talked to Rick Gay, Spring Branch’s director of procurement, about how agreement technology is enabling his team to save time, cut costs and take on a more strategic role within the organization.

Tell us about the procurement organization at Spring Branch ISD.

Being an educational institution, we’re a service-oriented type of business. Our annual MRO budget is about $60 million, and we do close to 400 RFP solicitations every year. My team handles everything from cafeteria food to construction, renovations, electricity and curriculum materials. We manage the entire procurement process from beginning to end.

When you first started at the school district, what were some of the challenges you needed to tackle?

When I got here in 2018, we were still a heavily paper-driven organization. Our contracts were paper; our bids were paper. So what we did first was implement an eBid system that enabled us to digitize our basic mission, which is to procure goods and services for the district. Once we did that we were able to put our bids out and receive proposals back from interested bidders electronically But the contract process wasn’t where we wanted to be, so we leveraged Docusign eSignature for the final step: execution. In the last three months alone, we’ve sent about 1,200 contracts out through Docusign, and in about 80% of the cases we've had them signed and returned to us within two days.

How were you able to convince the superintendent to have all the contracts go through your office? 

I’d been pushing for that since I got here, but COVID was really the driving force to help us get senior leadership on board. Before, we had a lot of people out there signing their own contracts, and there wasn’t any review process. This actually compromised the district’s position in contract terms, which was totally unacceptable. And this became extremely important during COVID because if we needed to cancel a contract or get a refund on money that had been spent it would be really hard trying to get more favorable terms after the fact. So, we were able to convince the superintendent that all contracts should go through procurement because we know what needs to be taken out or negotiated with the vendor. We also implemented Docusign Contract Lifecycle Management.

What shaped your decision to expand into CLM?

Although we were using Docusign eSignature, we still had to work through emailing various contract versions to vendors, and so things got lost. We looked at CLM because it would enable us to have a record of all changes being made, which is way better than trying to track changes in a Microsoft product. We wanted to implement a totally digital process, and I think COVID really showed us that we were going in the right direction.

What are some of the greatest benefits of digital procurement?

Because we're able to turn things around pretty quickly, it’s enhanced our ability to do contract negotiations. And it gives us a central location for tracking all these contracts. We can see a summary of where the contract was, how long it was there, who has it now, who signed off on it and where it goes next. And then after the contract is signed, the system doesn't stop tracking it. It lets us know when we’re coming up on a renewal timeframe and when we ought to be sending it out again. Docusign Agreement Cloud is an all-in-one encompassing platform that’s allowed us to really grab ahold of our contracting process.

How do you end users like the new process?

We’ve had nothing but positive comments back from our end users about the contract process. They're all very surprised at how quickly we're able to get things done now and how and how fast we get contracts into place, so they can get the goods and services they need. 

What’s next? How do you envision the future of digital at Spring Branch ISD?

We've actually expanded our use of Docusign, and I see only continued expansion. We’re using it to sign MOUs, contractor questionnaires, quotes, renewals, addendums and other contractual obligation documents that come along. Our standard operating procedure now is that if it needs a signature of any kind, it goes through Docusign. And I think as each year goes by, we’re going to continue to grow the system.

Read more about how Spring Branch School District is saving millions of dollars and accelerating time to delivery using the Docusign Agreement Cloud.

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