Universities Should Follow Eight Steps When Purchasing And Implementing A New Computer System, Says Edward Jones
Many universities are faced with the challenge of procuring and implementing a new student record system – their main “information backbone” for recording student details, choices and accomplishments. Often this is because their existing systems are getting obsolete, wanting a new system to allow for a broader transformation, or wanting to migrate to a cloud-based solution.
However, this is uncharted territory for most universities. Their larger purchases tend to be real estate rather than information technology, and it’s usually an exercise that takes place once every 10 years. And as they navigate the procurement process, they face the challenge of trying to manage a large and complex IT contract.
So how can universities get the most out of their student records system purchases and handle the subsequent contract? Here we explore the eight key steps to navigate before and after procurement to ensure success.
1. Sell the opportunity to the supplier market
As the number of suppliers is relatively small and the number of potential customers is high, it is important to make a pre-sourcing commitment. Make sure your procurement documents are clear and well presented, so suppliers can spend their time developing the best solution, without figuring out what you want or how to respond. Demonstrate senior sponsorship so that suppliers have confidence in their commitment.
2. Use the procurement process as an opportunity to involve stakeholders
It can also develop your thinking. Things don’t have to stop during procurement. Use the time to develop your new operating model, sort through your existing data, engage stakeholders, and plan how the transition works.
3. Lobby for strong contractual provisions around the implementation
Standard vendor conditions for implementation may be limited. Push hard for more efficient arrangements here so you only pay when value is delivered. This approach will allow you to closely monitor progress and ensure that you have a range of remedies in the event of a slippage. Accept that you will have little influence over standard vendor terms for live cloud services or software licenses
4. Accept that you have the same cloud services as everyone else.
Although you can select the level of service you receive (eg, gold, silver, bronze), a vendor is unlikely to negotiate specific targets for uptime or incident response time. It is also important that you check these terms of service or license against the main agreement to make sure that nothing is compromised. For example, the license may allow the supplier to terminate the contract for a minor breach or to increase the price in certain circumstances.
Once the procurement is successfully managed and the supplier on board, the university tends to relax and believe that the supplier will take care of the rest of the process. But institutions must continue to remain focused, even after procurement is completed.
5. Be prepared to be disappointed (at first)
Not all vendors are as good as you might expect at project management. Indeed, the mobilization of a team can take a certain time for the supplier. They are unlikely to have people with the right expertise ready to start work immediately. So, you may need to be a bit more of a leader at the start than you expected.
6. Know the “levers” of the contract
And embrace the proverbial “iron fist in a velvet glove” when using them. Since you’ve already invested the time to strike a solid contract, make sure you know the levers available to you and use them. This doesn’t mean being aggressive or confrontational with the supplier, but it’s important to set clear expectations early on. If you decide not to exercise any of the available remedies, be sure to record why – so that it is clear in any subsequent audit or review.
7. Be associated with your supplier management
It is important to present a united front, otherwise you risk giving inconsistent directions and not making the best use of contractual levers. It is also important not to manage the different aspects of supplier management (eg service delivery, invoicing and contract maintenance) in isolation.
8. Remember to look strategically
When you’re in the delivery phase, it can be easy to forget about the long-term view. For example, have you thought about where your supplier is going? What is their financial health? Are they expanding or are they losing customers? Do you have a view of their product roadmap?
A new student record system can bring huge benefits, such as improved student satisfaction, staff productivity, and student retention. While the procurement process can seem daunting, with careful planning, proper resources, and efficient execution, it can make big improvements.
Edward Jones is a public procurement and commercial expert at PA Consulting. A version of this article previously featured on the PA Consulting blog.
Find out more on PA Consulting’s 10th survey of higher education rectors in the UK.