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Weaving a Secure Web Around Education: A Guide to Technology Standards and Security
Home
  Table of Contents and Introductory Material
Chapter 1
  The Role of the World Wide Web in Schools and Education Agencies
Chapter 2
    Web Publishing Guidelines
Chapter 3
    Web-Related Legal Issues and Policies
Chapter 4
    Internal and External Resources for Web Development
Chapter 5
    Procuring Resources
Chapter 6
    Maintaining a Secure Environment
Conclusion
Appendices
Glossary
PDF File (1,119 KB)

Contact:
Ghedam Bairu

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Chapter 5: Procuring Resources


QUESTIONS ANSWERED IN THIS CHAPTER:
  • What is a bid process?
  • What are the components of a bid request for building a web site?


Introduction

In the 1990s, with the spiraling popularity of the Internet, education communities were eager to bring Internet access to the classroom and to build a presence on the web. A rush to purchase hardware and software often led to mistakes in technology choices. Since then, many school districts and state departments of education have developed a more systematic approach to technology procurement. This chapter describes procedures to make sure that technology purchases, especially for web site development, meet the needs of the agency.

In some agencies, a funding request with supporting justification is needed for every technology purchase. With solid planning, technology development and systems upgrades could become a permanent line item in the annual budget. It is more efficient when a line item for technology is included in the agency's budget. As educators develop plans to meet technology needs, policymakers should be prepared to provide a reliable funding source.

Under the best circumstances, a technology plan will guide all technology-related purchases. However, no plan can anticipate every need, so it is essential that technology budgets include some contingency funds for unanticipated purchases related to emergencies and changing technologies. In addition to emergencies, agencies need to budget for planned maintenance and upgrade of both hardware and software. For a reliable and useful network, policymakers responsible for approving the agency's budget and purchases should have a clear understanding of the total cost of ownership. Costs beyond the initial purchase cannot be an afterthought.

Technology should be an integral part of an agency?s budget.


The Bid Process

Some people may view a public bidding process as inefficient, time-consuming, and restrictive. However, there are several reasons why such a process should be employed in technology purchases.

  • Because bidders are unaware of the price being offered by their competitors, the possibility of lower initial and continuing costs is more likely.
  • A properly administered public bidding process eliminates the legitimacy of complaints from vendors and citizens that purchasing decisions were made through collusion and favoritism.
  • The agency is able to request special combinations of products and individually designed services without having to pay for unwanted components that often come with package deals and off-the-shelf purchases.
  • The process can provide an objective set of purchasing criteria that will assure that the purchase supports the mission and operational needs defined in the agency's strategic and technology plans.
Bid requests may fall into any of several categories. Technical specifications are most commonly used for the purchase of specific equipment. The specifications will set a minimum standard for components, service, warranty, and other agency needs. Well-written specifications can help in standardizing the components on a network and assuring compatibility of products. Good specifications can also provide strong evidence supporting the agency's position concerning the scope and intent of the parties when a dispute arises between the agency and a vendor.

Most often, specifications will designate minimum standards for functionality and quality. Typically, they do not designate a particular brand and/or model. In some cases, the minimum standards may be set by referring to a specific model and, by using the phrase "or equal," will permit vendors with alternative products to demonstrate that their proposal will result in functionality and quality equivalent to or better than the product specified.

RFQ = Request for Qualifications
RFP = Request for Proposal

A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is often appropriate when the agency is purchasing services (which may include some equipment) and does not yet have a specific vision of project goals and desired services. The RFQ is used when seeking specialists to help define and, perhaps, manage a project. Because the successful vendor will be assisting the agency in defining the project, it often leaves the question of pricing open to negotiation.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) may be the preferred bid document for securing goods and services when the agency has already determined the purpose and scope of a project. The RFP asks vendors to describe, or propose, how they will assist the agency in achieving its stated goals and why that vendor can provide a better service than others. In most cases, the RFP will include pricing information and may incorporate qualifications and other components found in an RFQ.


Components of Bid Requests

A good bid request defines what the agency wants to purchase with enough specificity that the comparison of equipment, services, and prices among the proposals will provide a fair and objective basis for identifying the best value and for selecting the best vendor.

Many agencies use templates as starting points for developing their bid requests. These templates can save time and energy, since some parts of different requests will be the same. A template may exist, for example, for the information needed by the local newspapers for posting the legal notice. Additionally, templates can address local and other governmental regulations. Finally, when responses to bid requests are submitted in the same format, using a template supplied by the requesting agency, it may be easier for agencies to evaluate the proposals.

After writing a bid request, the agency may want to consult with a business administrator, legal counsel, or other qualified individuals to examine it and ensure proper compliance with district, local government, state, and/or federal regulations. Many agencies have procurement personnel or business officers who can lead staff through the purchasing maze and review that process with them.


Legal counsel should review bid and proposal requests.

Listed below are some aspects to consider in preparing a bid request for web development. The agency should also consider having a person knowledgeable about web site development from outside the agency review the request to ensure that it covers all of the agency's needs.

These guidelines are intended to provide a broad overview for preparing a variety of bid requests. Details of an actual request will depend upon the specific needs of the agency. The request process may also vary, not only according to specific types of purchases, but also according to state and local laws and policies. Education agencies should develop a consistent set of procedures, reviewed by legal counsel, to govern all bid and proposal requests.

Bid Request Components

Basic design parameters

  Graphic of Checkmark Determine how the development of the web site fits into the strategic plan of the agency.
  Graphic of Checkmark Define the fundamental message(s) to be communicated on the web site.
  Graphic of Checkmark Set forth the basic structure of the site, with a description of the component parts.
  Graphic of Checkmark Note that an effective needs assessment and technology plan will forestall multiple changes during the design and development phase, which will help control costs and speed the process for timely implementation.

Contract parameters

  Graphic of Checkmark Develop a statement of work that clearly defines the roles, responsibilities, deliverables, timelines, and costs.
  Graphic of Checkmark Define whether the scope of the contract will be for design and development only or will include vendor operation of the web site after deployment.
  Graphic of Checkmark Specify the level of support services needed after deployment-whether the vendor will manage the site or simply provide troubleshooting and repair.
  Graphic of Checkmark State the condition under which maintenance is required after the web site is developed and placed online.
  Graphic of Checkmark Establish a clear price structure (only in very limited circumstances should the contractor be allowed to price on a time and materials basis).
  Graphic of Checkmark Define a payment schedule.
  • Payment should be based on specific deliverables or benchmarks.
  • Deliverables can be written into the RFP, but may require some additional negotiation.
  Graphic of Checkmark Set reasonable timelines and benchmarks for development and completion.
  Graphic of Checkmark Ensure that the education agency will receive sufficient documentation to be able to use and maintain the site after deployment.
  • Determine how and when documentation will be delivered.
  • Determine the form of the documentation (e.g., written guide, online guide, etc.).
  Graphic of Checkmark If professional development is a component of the bid proposal, determine where and how the vendor has provided this service in the past.

Vendor/contractor qualifications

  Graphic of Checkmark Define the training and expertise necessary for vendor/contractor respondents in areas such as:
  • graphic design skills;
  • writing (i.e., composition) skills;
  • knowledge of web programming languages; and
  • experience with online course development.
  Graphic of Checkmark If the web site is to include a database, require that the vendor/contractor provide evidence of expertise with the programming of at least one large database (e.g., SQL, Oracle, Informix) and the web-based user interfaces for the databases.
  Graphic of Checkmark If necessary, specify a database to be used by the agency if the use of a database will involve interaction with other computer systems that are already in the agency.
  Graphic of Checkmark Require bidders to document expertise in web-programming languages (e.g., HTML, SML, ASP, VBScript, Java, Perl script).
  Graphic of Checkmark Require evidence of company stability (e.g., financial reports and history).
  Graphic of Checkmark Require access to other sites designed and/or operated by the vendor.
  Graphic of Checkmark Require the contractor to demonstrate knowledge of the web "Content Accessibility Guidelines" (see appendix F) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act [29 U.S.C. 749d] standards.
  Graphic of Checkmark Require the contractor to document individual qualifications of the staff who will work on and be responsible for the agency's site.
  Graphic of Checkmark Require the contractor to present a proposal based on the agency's needs assessment and technology plan.
  Graphic of Checkmark If the web site is to be housed outside the agency, include a provision that allows for upgrades of server speed and bandwidth.

Legal issues

  Graphic of Checkmark Establish ownership of source code or the computer program(s) used to create the web site. The ownership of source code is critical because the agency may later decide to change vendors or bring maintenance of the site in house.
  Graphic of Checkmark For any development supported partially or completely by federal funds, the code automatically becomes part of the public domain. Inform vendors of this stipulation up front to avoid misunderstandings and/or future legal conflicts.
  Graphic of Checkmark If the web site is to be housed on servers outside the organization, establish that the web site is owned by the agency and may be moved to a different vendor, or brought in house at a predetermined time.
  Graphic of Checkmark Ensure compliance with copyright laws and provide indemnification for the education agency for any copyright violations made by the vendor.


Summary

The process of developing a web site progresses through technology planning, assessing specific needs, and the gathering of funding sources. When the agency is ready to develop a web site, a formal bid process has many benefits. An RFQ or RFP allows vendors to respond to the specific, stated needs of the agency.

  • Funding for technology, including web development and support, should be built into agency budgets.
  • The bid proposal for web development could include the following areas:
    • basic design parameters;
    • contract parameters;
    • vendor/contractor qualifications; and
    • legal issues.
  • Legal counsel should review the general procurement procedures for the agency for compliance with legal and generally accepted accounting principles.


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