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Enterprise Software Acquisition

Over the years Santa Clara University has acquired many software products to address various administrative needs. There has not been a clearly defined process to assist departments in this activity. This has often led to last minute "surprises", confusion, lack of coordination and, ultimately, frustration and missed target dates for departments and IT. To have a successful software project "stakeholders" need to work together in a coordinated way. The intent of this policy is to describe a process for software acquisitions at Santa Clara University that insures:

  • A software solution is warranted based on business needs
  • The best software options are evaluated and selected
  • Acquisitions are approved by the appropriate administrators
  • The selected software meets technical and business standards (see the "Technical Standards" document)
  • The process is open to all those who have a need to know and participate
  • Contractual obligations are reviewed
  • Training and support issues are understood
  • The total cost of ownership of the software is understood.

Departments will play a lead role in:

  • Justifying the business need
  • Identifying and working with potential vendors and IT to evaluate the software
  • Arranging for necessary funding
  • Performing any necessary implementation tasks such as application configuration and data entry.

Information Technology plays a key role in supporting administrative software. Our services are available as early as possible to assist in this process by:

  • Consulting for each of the steps described below
  • Assisting with implementation requirements
  • Facilitating the infrastructure to support the software
  • Integrating the software with existing systems
  • Providing trouble-shooting services when applicable.

The steps outlined below are designed to meet these objectives.

  1. Business justification for the software.
    Administrative software is designed to support business processes that either require extensive manual work or have complex requirements that need computer support. There are two business aspects of a software acquisition to consider, the "functional" benefits which may include improved service to clients, reduced workload on staff and/or the ability to do things that cannot be done or done easily without the software. The other aspect is the "ROI", return on investment, of the software. Will savings be realized from the use of this software that will offset the purchase and support costs? What are the financial benefits of acquiring this software? IT will work with departments to do a feasibility study. This study will examine current business processes and evaluate options including non-software solutions (e.g., business process changes) and "in-house" solutions developed by IT. In-house solutions have the advantage of being integrated with existing systems. IT will work with the requestor to document the problem and recommend a solution.

    After this assessment has been completed all administrative software acquisition proposals will be reviewed by the Administrative Systems Coordinating Committee, (ASCC). This committee is led by the CIO and consists of administrators from each of the vice presidential areas the university. They will review the proposal and approve or deny it. They will also assist IT in prioritizing the project with competing work.

    Student related administrative software must also be reviewed by the Student Information Technology team (SIT). SIT will make recommendations to ASCC.

  2. Participation of stakeholders.
    In many cases other entities on campus will be affected or could benefit from a given software acquisition. It is important that concerned parties be included in the evaluation and implementation stages. If software can be utilized across the university rather than by a single department, the ROI will be much higher.
  3. Software selection process.
    Assuming that there are no other options besides the acquisition of software (based on step #1), due diligence must be exercised in evaluating what software options are available. Typically, there are multiple vendors in the marketplace for any given functional area and there is always the possibility of an SCU IT developed solution. We must consider all aspects when evaluating software vendors; the viability of the vendor itself, the "fit" of the software to our needs, the ability to integrate the software with existing systems, the flexibility of the software to adapt to future needs, the vendor support and enhancement policies, and the licensing and maintenance costs to name just a few. Again, IT will work with departments to assist in the search and evaluation phase.
  4. Software evaluation.
    As part of the software selection process certain standards must be evaluated. From a business perspective, the software must meet the functional needs of the university. Typically, this is evaluated using a "Fit/Gap" methodology where the software is mapped to business needs to determine where they "fit", where functions are adequately supported, and where there are "gaps", where the software does not support a need. Gaps in the software's capability must be addressed. One way to insure better fit/gap compliance is to do an "RFP", Request for Proposal, where required and desirable functions and technical requirements are described in a document that is sent to vendors for their responses. Only those who best meet our needs are further evaluated. IT will assist with fit/gap and RFP activities.

    Technical standards must also be considered. The type of technology employed by vendors when building an application has a direct effect on our ability to integrate it with other systems, provide adequate security, provide acceptable performance and accessibility and be able to adapt to future needs. IT must be consulted if we are to provide support for a new software application. Please refer to the "Technical Standards" document for more information.

  5. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
    While the licensing, maintenance, consulting, training and implementation costs are typically part of the contract and are negotiated up front, there are often other overt and "hidden" costs. There are hardware costs, usually one or more servers, database licensing costs, periodic maintenance increases and hardware upgrades and other such costs to be considered. There are also "internal" costs to SCU like the networking connections, security provisions (e.g., "firewall" rules), integration or "data feeds" with other systems like PeopleSoft, problem resolution with the vendor, and other time and labor oriented costs. Before committing to any solution the TCO should be understood.
  6. Contract Review.
    Per university policy all contracts must be reviewed and approved by the University General Council and the University Group Risk Manager. To facilitate the process, when the number of viable vendors is reduced to one or two, copies of their standard contracts should be provided to Risk Management for review. It is also advisable to negotiate a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the vendor to insure acceptable performance of their obligations.

To assist in this process IT has designed guidelines of steps and questions to be asked along the way to insure that the best decision is made regarding new software; please refer to the "Proposal Guidelines" document. As this process may take anywhere from 2 to 6 months to complete it is best to start well in advance of when it will actually be needed.

Jun 6, 2014