This phase of the product selection is important for a number of reasons.  It is the first contact with vendors that the University may need to establish a longer term relationship with.  It will provide a large part of the information needed in order to move to the next phase of the project.  It will also take a considerable amount of time and organisation to complete.

Pre-requisites: Requirements analysis and technology market scan.

Outcome: The request for information process will provide the project with detailed information about each of the potential products.  This will enable the project to shortlist to 3-4 products for further investigation. 

Steps:

1. Finalise your functionality list:

The list of functionality requirements from the previous step can now be further developed.  Save a version of the original document from your requirement analysis before editing the list.

The document should include at least all of the mandatory and desirable requirements; it may also include the optional requirements depending on how long the list is.  Include any technical and IT policy/IT legal requirements that may be used to rule products out: examples are Blackboard integration; PeopleSoft integration (SI-net); Data is stored in Australia.

Include a request for a ballpark license cost based on the amount of users who will be using the product in the first year.  This is important because any product costing over $100 000 in the first year will require a full eTender procurement process, and this will impact the next phase of the project.

See ITS technical considerations: Internally hosted products & externally hosted products

ITS procurement webpage (You will need to be logged into the ITS site to view this page)

2. Establish contact with the vendors via the webpage and ask for a contact

Use the online contact form to introduce yourself, identify your organisation, and ask for a contact to further discuss the product.  Keep this initial contact brief.

3. Organise your workspace

  1. Consider creating new mail sub-folders under the project name for each of the vendors contacted.  Save all email correspondence into these folders.
  2. Consider creating a folder in your network drive for each of the vendors contacted.  Copy all mail messages and documents into these folders.
  3. Create a folder on your browser toolbar for bookmarks to each of the vendor web-sites.

4. Write and send the Request for Information to each of the vendor contacts.

A request for information is a formal request that the vendor consider the functionality the project has identified, and put, in writing, confirmation and examples of how the product can or cannot meet each functionality requirement.  By supplying them with the template it becomes easier to compare and analyse the responses.  If the project needs to go to Tender, this document will be added to the vendor submission.

To include in the request: a cover letter (email body), with a brief summary of the project, the problem being addressed, and a summary of the manner in which the problem is currently worked around.

It can be useful to put a brief description of UQ as well, and a link to the UQ fast facts page.

In the letter, request that the vendor respond to the attached functionality requirements including screen shots if they believe that would be useful.  Specify a return date.  Two weeks is an acceptable amount of time, depending on the complexity of the requirements.

Send all of the requests on the same day if possible.  This makes the process fair and equitable.

5. Compile the results and begin rating the responses

Create a new tab in the spreadsheet with the detailed functionality requirements in column A, and each of the vendor/products across the rest of the columns. 

Decide on the rating scale you will use for this process, for example:

0 – Does not meet the requirements

2 – Can be developed

4 – Functionality exists as is

5 – Exceeds functional requirement

As each of the responses come in rate the products in the spreadsheet.  It can be useful to do this in partnership with someone else involved in the project.  Ask the vendors to further explain any of the responses that seem unclear.  When all responses have been received weighting may be added to the spreadsheet based on the mandatory, desirable and optional values.  Some vendors can probably be ruled out at this stage.

Note: If the license costs appear to be above $100 000, you will need to contact the ITS procurement office for advice on the procurement process.

6. Respond to the vendors

When all of the responses have been received consider emailing the vendors to thank them for responding, and to briefly explain what happens next (tender or straight to demo/trial).  Indicate when they can expect to hear the outcome of the shortlisting process.

Previous step: Technology market scan

Next step: Stakeholder panel