The intention of state purchasing guidelines is pretty simple – to ensure a competitive bidding process for significant technology purchases (normally over $5000.00). But complying with purchasing guidelines can be time consuming and difficult.
What’s a school to do?
Two men formed a partnership. They built a small shed beside a busy road. They obtained a truck and drove it to a farmer’s field, where they purchased a truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. They drove the loaded truck to their shed by the road, where they sold their melons for a dollar a melon. They drove back to the farmer’s field and bought another truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. Transporting them to the roadside, they again sold them for a dollar a melon. As they drove back toward the farmer’s field to get another load, one partner said to the other, “We’re not making much money on this business, are we?” “No, we’re not,” his partner replied. “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”
- Identify clearly what technical solution is required (this is the most important step).
- Utilize a technology distributor that represents a large variety of vendors.
- Arrange for a cost plus, or percentage of invoice markup for your purchases.
Let’s look at an example of how this works:
Assume that a school administrator comes to us with a requisition for new desktops for all staff members. Specifications are agreed upon in advance and would include features such as form factor, operating system, memory, and storage requirements. Added to that feature list is a general idea on the budget available.
Our next step is to provide our distributors with those specifications and obtain competing quotes from their list of vendors. Now if you are dealing with a single vendor, your purchasing program will break at this point. So be sure you deal with a distributor’s representative, not a single vendor’s representative.
We work with two of the largest technology distributors in the US and, with few exceptions, receive a wide variety of products that match the required specifications. We then select based primarily upon price (all other considerations being equal). The school is then presented with our recommendations and the PO is obtained, the invoice is marked up the agreed upon amount, and the items are ordered.
This simple process provides our partner schools with a fair and competitive bid for items requested. The cost plus markup scheme can be easily audited to verify fair pricing and we provide the interface for warranty claims, service, etc.
One of our competitors claims to sell hardware at cost to their customer schools. Perhaps this is to offset the high fees charged for services, or perhaps they just need a bigger truck!