We are now going to discuss the typical stages in awarding a contract.
This discussion assumes that a feasibility study has already provisionally identified the need for the intended software.
David Bainbridge ibid page 135.
Before potential supplier can be approached, you need to have a clear set of requirements. Two points need to be emphasized here. The first is that it is easy for this step to be skimped where the user has many day-to-day pressures and not much time to think about future developments. In this situation, it can be useful to bring in an external consultant to draw up a requirements document. Even here, users and their managers need to look carefully at the resulting requirements document to ensure that it accurately reflect their needs. As David Bainbridge has pointed out: 'the lock of, or defects in, the specification are probably the heart of most disputes resulting from the acquisition of computer equipment and software' The requirements document might typically have sections with the headings shown in Table 10.3. This requirements document is sometimes called an operational requirement or OR.
Table 10.3 Main sections in a requirements document
2 A description of any existing systems and the current environment
3 The customer's future strategy or plans
4 System requirements
6 Additional information required from potential suppliers
The requirements define carefully the functions that need to be carried out by the new application and all the necessary inputs and outputs for these functions. The requirements should also state any standards with which there should be compliance, and the existing systems with which the new system needs to be compatible. As well as these functional requirements, there will also need to be operational and quality requirements concerning such matters as the required response times, reliability, usability and maintainability of the new system.
In general, the requirements document should state needs as accurately as possible and should avoid technical specifications of possible solutions. The onus should be placed on the potential suppliers to identify the technical solutions that they believe will meet the customer's stated needs. After all, they are the technical experts who should have access to the most up-to-date information about current technology.
Each requirement needs to be identified as being either mandatory or desirable.
• Mandatory If a proposal does not meet this requirement then the proposal is to be immediately rejected. No further evaluation would be required.
• Desirable A proposal might be deficient in this respect, but other features of the proposal could compensate for it.
For example, in the case of the Brightmouth College payroll acquisition project, Brigette might identify as a mandatory requirement that any new system should be able to carry out all the processes previously carried out by the old system. However a desirable feature might be that the new payroll software should be able to produce accounting details of staff costs in an electronic format that can be read directly by the college's accounting computer system.
Among the other details that should be included in the requirements document to be issued to potential suppliers would be requests for any information needed to help us judge the standing of organization itself. This could include financial reports, references from past customers and the CVs of key development staff.
Chapter 12 on Software Quality discusses how aspects of quality can be measured.
One suggestion is that the weighting between product criteria and supplier criteria when selecting software ought to be 50:50 (Demian Martinez, Decision Drivers Inc., Computing 23 July 1998).
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.