Evaluating the current system, monitoring trends and developments in computing, networking, and communication technologies

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Theoretical and philosophical substantiation of RFP for Benton Harbor, Michigan

The City of Benton Harbor in Michigan floated RFP for outsourcing of its Information Technology, Personal Computers, and Networking Support Services for a population of approximately 100 City employees. The scope also included services such as remote access, web and electronic commerce support. The RFP entailed request for qualification for providing the following services:

- Evaluating the current system, monitoring trends and developments in computing, networking, and communication technologies
- Evaluating new hardware, software, operating systems, and techniques to improve systems, performance and coordinating migration to new technologies
- Recommending policies, procedures, and standards for implementation and use of IT
- Performing annual audit of IT infrastructure
- Creating plans to rectify shortcomings identified in the IT audit
- Maintenance of IT infrastructure including servers, database, backup, email hosting, application hosting, telecommunication services, and document management
- Supporting networking and telecommunications interconnections
- Performing network administration functions like maintenance, system upgrade
- Providing desktop and application support including troubleshooting of all hardware and software problems
- Researching and providing recommendation for technology needs, and also hardware and software needs
- Installing software packages and performing user testing
- Other services as requested and budgeted by the City

The City invited proposals from vendors in a particular format which should include information about the team profiles who would handle the project if the vendor gets the contract and vendor`s past experience in handling similar projects. The vendor firms need to meet the qualification criteria set by the City council. For example, vendors need to have 5 years or more of related experience, they need to have requisite staff number, experience working with technology tools like Microsoft SQL Server, experience of working with municipal entities, familiarity with City of Benton harbor dynamics, and extensive experience working with consumers of IT services.

The RFP was floated out on February 23, 2011 and responses were due on March 9, 2011. Vendors could also ask for clarifications till March 3, 2011 to which the City Council would respond through internet. The proposal provided information on the quantities, due date, time, and location of sending proposals. The RFP provided the address where the proposal had to be sent and the contact person who could be reached out in case of any queries.

Another important piece of information contained in the RFP is the evaluation criteria, rejection criteria, and contract award terms. For the City of Benton Harbor RFP, proposals were to be evaluated on the basis of following criteria:

- Experience of the firm with similar projects
- Experience of proposed project team and key team members
- Overall quality of statement of qualifications
- Innovative approaches and proposed solutions to issues associated with the City of Benton Harbor IT infrastructure

Similarly, there is a rejection of proposal which could be due to any irregularities or informality in the submission process or due to any other reason as decided by the City. After the contract is won by a firm, it would get 10 days of time to sign the contract. Failure to do this would go to the next highest ranked firm. The last section of the RFP contains legalities, policies, equal employment terms, insurance requirements and code of conduct requirements.

The project can be managed by one practitioner who can be the project manager of the entire project. However, given the scope of the project, there would be a requirement for Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) or Single point of Contact (SPOC). Need to nominate three SPOC for three threads- IT, networking, and PC. They can be nominated from the project team and would work under the project manager. Each SPOC would be responsible for managing his piece of project, but the final responsibility of providing deliverable would be in the hands of project manager. The project manager would have to have a background in the field of Organizational Development and Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Further Discussion:

The City of Benton Harbor aims to achieve recognition as an efficient and innovative provider of high quality municipal services. Construction and maintenance of City`s infrastructure are significant ongoing services. The City`s committee was facing problems of declining revenue which was due to inefficient allocation of resources. The outsourcing initiative was taken by the City to regain its focus on resources, and create successful partnerships to work for the good of the community. It would have also meant improving capabilities of City personnel to perform their duties effectively and efficiently. The outsourcing would help direct City`s focus for improving community rather than dedicating resources for maintaining technology services which is not the strength of the City`s personal. By doing so, the City of Benton Harbor will nurture an organizational culture that encourages competence, friendliness, teamwork, creative input and sharing of ideas. The decision for outsourcing is thus an appropriate one, based on the current situation of the City`s staff knowledge, and job duties to improve operational and administrative performance to lead to a more effective and efficient government.

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