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Technology at Your Fingertips
Chapter 1: Knowing What to Do

Chapter 2: Knowing What You Need

Chapter 3: Knowing What You Have

Chapter 4: Knowing What to Get

What Kinds of Things Should You Consider?

How Do You Decide What to Get?

How Do You Analyze Costs and Establish a Budget?

How Do You Document You Decision?

Chapter 5: Knowing How to Implement Your Solution

Chapter 6: Knowing How to Train Users

Chapter 7: Knowing How to Support and Maintain Your Technology Solution
Chapter 4: Knowing What to Get

Select a technology solution that best meets your organization's goals and needs, projected costs and expected benefits.

How do you decide what to get?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this question. Ultimately, you must weigh the pros and cons of several options, and decide upon the one that gives you "the best bang for your buck." Of course staff happiness is also a factor.

There are a couple of things you can do to help you with your decision, if it is not already crystal clear.

Reviewing Organization Guidelines and Procedures
If your organization, or a similar organization, has a set of guidelines for selecting a technology solution, now is the time to bring them back out, and compare them to what you want. For instance, your school district or state education agency may have a contract with specific vendors who can provide you with what you want. Or there may be specific procurement procedures you must follow to get bids on the solution you think fits your needs best.

A typical accounting requirement is the use of a Request for Proposals (RFP). The purpose of an RFP is to request an actual proposal that will spell out specifics such as the product, equipment, costs, delivery dates, etc. Your organization may have a rule that contracts over a certain dollar amount must be awarded as a result of a competitive bid process. If so, there is no point narrowing a market search down to a single preferred product since the product's vendor will have to respond to an RFP anyway. Thus, you can save time by simply defining the category of vendors/developers you want to have bid, and then concentrate on writing the RFP.

Of equal importance, be sure to involve the correct set of people in the procurement process. If state or local purchasing administrators or the management information systems (MIS) department needs to be included, delays are likely to result if you wait too long before doing so. Besides helping you decide how to request what you want, they can help to avoid delays that will further frustrate impatient users and erode the currency of the needs assessment.

Figure 4.3 contains a listing of requirements that are often included in an RFP. Your organization may have a specific format you must use. Be sure to request all of the information you think you will need to choose from among various bidders.

Seeking Outside Advice
If you feel you do not have sufficient in-house expertise, you may want to hire an independent consultant or consulting firm to design specifications for the system you want and subsequently give you a bid on implementing their design. There are some advantages to doing this in two phases. If you are not satisfied with the first phase, you can choose someone else to redesign and implement the solution. On the other hand, if you approve of the work done during the first phase, there are advantages to using the same group for implementation. This assumes, however, that you are aware of organizations who you trust to do the work.

Another way to find out who is available to provide certain goods and/or services is to issue a Request for Information (RFI). This not only helps to identify sources of assistance from outside the organization, but also serves as an important step in arranging for your solution to be implemented. There are two ways you could use the RFI at this stage:

  • Use the RFI to enable you to select a specific desired vendor of a product or services.
  • Issue an RFI specifying only what you want a system to do (i.e., the essence of the Needs Assessment, Product Inventories and Functional Specifications documents). Let bidders propose products, custom developed systems, outsourcing contracts, etc., as long as they can convince you that their solutions are cost-effective ways of meeting your needs.
Reviewing References
Have you ever been to a restaurant and thought something looked appealing, but you just weren't sure, so you waited until someone else tried it first? The same principle applies to selecting technology solutions. If you know someone else has implemented and used technology that your organization is considering adopting, feedback from these users can inform your organization's decision making. Talking to users should occur early in your considerations because you want to learn key information about the system or software before making your decision. There are certain questions you should ask to help you compare the usage to your own situation. If you choose to work with a vendor that is unfamiliar to you, you will want to ask the same questions of several of the vendor's references .

key questions

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