Purchasing a New System
Making the decision to purchase a new system for your agency can often be a frustrating and daunting task but this process can be much easier with thorough and timely planning as outlined in the following steps:
- Step One: Choose a project manager
The project manager can be either a consultant outside of the agency or someone from within the agency. Individuals from within the agency often have a greater understanding of the agency 's particular needs and can usually be assigned to work on the project at little to no cost to the agency. Individuals from outside the agency may have a more general understanding of the specific technology the agency is interested in as well as a more thorough understanding of how the new system can be integrated and implemented. The main concern to keep in mind is that only one person should be responsible for the project in order to eliminate possible miscommunication and overlap.
- Step Two: Develop specifications
Once a project manager has been selected and acquainted with the needs of the agency, the specifications need to be developed. These specifications should include the 3 elements of an automated system - hardware, system software, and application software. Sample specifications can be requested from other agencies and vendors to assist in the determination of specifications. Obtaining employee input as to what features the new system needs will also assist in the configuration of the new system.
- Step Three: Request information from vendors - select desired format
There are three ways to obtain information for your new system from potential vendors.
- RFI (Request for Information) - this is used when an agency has not yet established their system needs. It will provide a general idea of what vendors are able to provide the agency with their product, what each vendor specifically offers, and a general system cost.
- RFP (Request for Proposal) - this is used when specific issues and solutions have not yet been identified and the responsibility is placed upon the vendor to identify the issues and provide the solution.
- RFQ (Request for Quotation) - this is used by consultants or other project managers who have already established the configuration of the system and are simply interested in obtaining a price.
- Step Four: Planning and execution
During this stage of the process it is essential that the project manager or consultant be consistently involved and available to assist in the implementation and review of the system. Some software packages are available to assist in this stage but can be rather expensive.
- Step Five: Vendors response
Providing an agency with the requested information can often be a time consuming task on the part of the vendor. With this in mind, allow 60-90 days for the vendor to respond to the agencies request. If you have any questions regarding the information, read the vendor response carefully and if concerns persist, contact the vendor. Accept the winning bid in the vendors preferred format.
Note: From "Automating Your Agency: Making it Easy on Yourself," by Steve Ashley, 2001, Police and Security News, September/October 2001, p. 45-49.