Turning procurement into a strategic partner for city leadership

June 8, 2022

Title: Chief Procurement Officer

City: Miami

In many city halls, the purchasing shop is not the first place you’d look to find innovation. But that’s exactly what Annie Perez wants her department to be in Miami.

Perez is relentless about finding tweaks that can speed up the procurement process. A few years ago, she sent her entire staff, 19 people at the time, to the Miami Innovation Academy to learn how to identify and cut waste and inefficiency from their everyday work. 

They’re constantly coming up with fixes, like software that soon will digitize the procurement process in a way that will reduce the possibility of making mistakes while giving departments more transparency than ever into the status of their purchases. “My staff loves innovation,” Perez says. “They’re coming up with ideas every day.”

Now, Perez is excited to take procurement to an even higher level. Last month, she participated in a Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative training on leading city procurement reform. Over four days, she and 50 colleagues from 16 U.S. cities practiced the arts of teaming, negotiation, overcoming resistance to change, and more.

A key project Perez will continue to develop through the training is focused on hurricane preparedness. When Miami got hit by Hurricane Irma in 2017, she says, the city was caught off guard. It was the city’s first major storm in a dozen years, and contracts were not in place to buy goods and services needed for cleanup and relief efforts.

Now, Perez is partnering with the city’s emergency manager to get ahead of the next storm. They’re poring through the data on what Miami had to purchase during Irma, and connecting with other cities in Florida and North Carolina to find out what they purchased when they got hit by storms. The plan is to get contracts in place on everything from emergency meals to debris removal, and align those contracts with federal guidelines to make it easier for the city to seek federal reimbursement for those expenses when the time comes.

Perez not only hopes this project will help Miami recover quickly when the next storm hits, but also plans to use it as a stepping stone to new ways of working with all city departments. “I want us to get to a place where we’re not reactive but strategic with procurement,” Perez says. “Sometimes procurement departments are too caught up in the day to day to think strategically. But we can be change agents. We can do a lot of good.”

Pro tip: “Innovation is a team sport. You can’t do it alone.”