To ensure you have a clear idea of:
- Costs and benefits of proposed solutions
- Project risks
- Implementation timescales and resources requirements.
- Decide on preferred supplier
- Summarise product “fit” against your requirements and decide how you will handle any gaps
- Negotiate with supplier.
- Signed contract
- Outline implementation plan and milestones
- Agree payment terms.
Decide on preferred supplier
As a result of your evaluation exercise you may have a clear winner or you may have to come to a difficult decision between two or more products that match your requirements in different ways. If you have followed this methodology through you should be clear about your requirements and their relative priorities but it can still be a complex matter to weigh up the potential costs and benefits of different systems.
In the complex area of student administration it is often the case that no system will meet your needs fully and you must adopt a “best fit” approach. In this situation you should undertake a comprehensive analysis of the gaps in the product and decide how you intend to fill them. This is essential if you are to meet your user requirements, to produce an accurate costing for delivering your project and to produce realistic project timescales.
Some potential solutions to gaps, and key issues to consider, are noted below.
This should be avoided if at all possible. If you decide to undertake bespoke work make sure you are aware of the implications for design and development costs, support, maintenance and future product upgrades.
It may be that you can change your business processes to work in the same way as the system. If your project includes process change remember to allow additional resources for analysis, testing, communication, training and support.
You may decide to interface to a different system to carry out some functions. As systems become increasingly open integration becomes less of a technical issue and more about how you manage the information.
Technical considerations include the cost of writing, testing, maintaining and supporting interfaces. Business considerations include how you structure data within the different systems so that it can be integrated where necessary eg, for reporting purposes.
Negotiate with supplier
Having established which product best fits your needs you are in a position to negotiate with your preferred supplier. The extent to which you are free to negotiate on terms and conditions is determined to some extent by the procurement route you choose and what you specified in your Invitation to Tender (ITT).
One of the aims of this methodology is to put you in a good bargaining position at the end of the evaluation so you are advised to choose a route that allows you to negotiate after you have gained a thorough understanding of the product.
Contract negotiation is a minefield and your project plan should allow plenty of time for to-ing and fro-ing between your lawyers and the suppliers. Our resources on working with commercial suppliers cover most of the common issues with regard to traditional purchasing of software and infrastructure and highlights the differences that are emerging in the cloud environment, but you are nonetheless advised to seek legal advice at an early stage.
One point to bear in mind is that all of the large software companies will tell you that their standard contract terms are non-negotiable. The multi-nationals will say this very convincingly but all of them are able to exercise a greater or lesser degree of flexibility when it comes to winning your business in the end.
Two ways in which you can get a head start in preparing for this stage are to:
- Include a sample set of your terms and condition with your ITT
- Include a session on contract terms as part of your evaluation event – this will allow you to sum up the supplier’s different approaches to contracts as a factor in your final decision.
It is tempting after a possibly lengthy and wearing selection process to want to get this stage out of the way as quickly as possible and get on with implementation. Everyone believes at this point that things will go well and the signed contract will go into a drawer never to be looked at again.
In the real world this is all too often not the case. Cutting corners at this stage could be your biggest mistake. A well-drawn up contract should protect you (and the supplier) against unforeseen circumstances that throw your project off-track.
Sign the contract
It is assumed here that you are contracting with a single supplier for the purchase and implementation of your system. Our resources on working with commercial suppliers cover the additional complexities of third party involvement. We recommend that the contract should include the following schedules:
A list of the customer requirements that the supplier is undertaking to meet
This may be taken from your ITT but it is likely to require some amendment if there are areas where the supplier is unable to meet the requirements as originally stated. It is particularly important to include the specific agreements about areas where the supplier has promised to meet a requirement with a future release of the product.
An outline plan that highlights the key implementation milestones
The plan is bound to be subject to change but you should start with an agreed baseline and adopt formal change control procedures to handle deviation from the plan.
A payment schedule that references the milestones
An application or other types of tool is of no use to you unless it can be delivered as a working solution in your environment. Where you are partnering with a supplier on implementation, it is reasonable to pay against delivery of agreed objectives rather than simply pay up front.
This is particularly important in relation to implementation consultancy which can eat up a large proportion of any implementation budget. Staged payments give you some leverage in the event that the consultancy does not deliver the expected results or overruns the agreed budget.