Friday, May 29, 2009

The RFQ Process Part 1

One of the biggest responsibilities that a Tech Director has is using their budget correctly to meet the needs of their school(s). For the 2009-10 school year I have a fabulous budget of $2,843,405 to meet all of the technology needs of our district (about $400 per student). This is a larger number than year's past (except last year) and is greater than we plan to spend each year over the next 10 years (the long term plan is about $315 per student per year).

We are currently in the process of catching technology up in areas that we fell behind from the late 90's through 2006 due to a lack of funding for technology initiatives.

We have in place a 3 year plan from 2008-2011 that was approved by the Board of Education that outlines our budget for each of those years. We built out our expected expenditures based on a long visioning and planning process last year. Now in year 2 we revisited those plans and put together a budget plan. We then shared that plan with all of the staff via a Google spreadsheet. Our budgeting and purchasing process is totally transparent to everyone in the organization. After July 1 I may post the document to the public.

The result of all of this budgeting and planning is the development of a Request for Quote (RFQ). In Illinois technology purchases do not have to go through a formal blind bid so we use a modified version of a bid in our RFQ.

Our First RFQ for this year is available here

All year long we update our database of vendors and we email our RFQ's out to all of them. Last Friday we collected all of the quotes and have spent the last week going through them. We will announce winners by next Friday.

The important part of this process is getting vendors to compete. We usually realize a 5-20% savings over the best prices we could have found just by searching on the internet. We followed a similar model in Palatine Township District 211 when I was there (they used a true blind bid) and we saw similar savings.

One of the key pieces is how we structure the computer quotes. If you look at the quote you will see that computers are bid by components. This gives that greatest chance for competition. We almost always accept comparable bids to the products we list. More competitors equals greater savings.

The lesson here - you don't always have to get more money to have more money.

Stay tuned for the result of the RFQ's and the completion of the budgeting/purchasing process for this year.

Do you do it differently? What can we learn from each other?