Buying computers for a college campus is no small feat. In addition to requisitioning and specing them before the purchase, there is the configuration and instillation after the purchase to worry about.
After years of making piecemeal technology purchases for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Office of Information Technology staff at Texas A&M International University teamed up with the purchasing department to determine whether there was a way to save time and money by standardizing and combining purchases. “We started looking at purchases and realized that, if we bundled them, we could get a substantial discount,” explains Leebrian Gaskins, associate vice president for information technology/chief information officer. “It was better for us to buy 300 or 400 at a time and meet the needs of the campus than to buy one or two here and there.”
A semiannual, university-wide purchasing process was developed. Requesting departments can access an intranet site to select from preapproved standardized hardware specifications. At the end of the request period, the requisitions are totaled and placed out for competitive bid.
Gaskins says the purchases take place in February and September, allowing faculty and staff to get back into the swing of things at the beginning of the semester and determine their technology needs.
The new process has saved time for the purchasing department staff since they are not processing hardware requests piecemeal. Similarly, time is saved for the IT staff since they are no longer researching multiple quotes. Deployment of new computers is also faster since they are being imaged and deployed en mass rather than “as they were trickling in,” Gaskin says. “It was easier for us to do it as a project instead of individual installs.” The recovered time allows the staff to provide better support overall.
The financial savings have been significant. According to Gaskin’s records, over the last 18 months, the university has saved $91,000 on computer hardware purchases—$65,700, or 15 percent of the total technology purchase, in fall 2010; $11,700, or 5 percent of the total, in spring 2011; and $15,000, or 6 percent of the total, in fall 2011.
Adding servers and network appliances to the mix provided even more buying power. “We try to hit the sales quarters and get even better discounts, up to 15 percent,” Gaskin says. What does he do with all that saved money? “I give it back to my boss,” he laughs.
“We can put more technology into our classrooms now,” confirms Juan Castillo, VP for finance and administration. The extra funds have been put to use for classroom refreshes and expanding wireless on campus.
To smooth the way for your own bundling program, Gaskin suggests getting executive buy-in, something that can be accomplished with data. “If you can pull a year of purchasing you would be surprised by how much you are spending,” he says. “If you can get even a 5 percent discount, that could be significant savings in the long term.”