Archive for February, 2008

What it is to be tender(ing)

I haven’t written any updates about the SAFIR project for a while. Largely because we’ve been heavily entrenched in our confidential tendering procurement process. We’re nearing the end of that now, but before making our final decision I’ve been musing a bit on the process, whilst remaining firmly confidential.

I’ve spent the few weeks reading long tender documents, comparing the different slants put on the answers therein and poking around demonstration systems to see whether I could make them work in my favour. For the three or four weeks before that various people spent long periods filling them in and giving demonstrations here at York. It’s the first time that I’ve done this and it strikes me as both an extremely valuable exercise and a monumental waste of time. One of the biggest difficulties has been in the fact that we wanted to evaluate open source products against commercial. We’re not the first to do this. The MIDESS project produced a useful document detailing their experience of doing the same. Their experience, which involved three institutions choosing software, was interesting in that ultimately their choice seemed dictated as much by institutional preference and skillset as functionality. That seems to be an important point, and one that was made by the open source community – that whatever product we choose, it must fit with the ethos and infrastructure here at York.

Musing on the process, it strikes me once again that although there is much to be gained by talking to colleagues, visiting sites and watching demonstrations, there is an awful lot that must be done on the ground and in-house. I thought the same thing about the requirements gathering exercise. Now, nearing the end of the process, I keep wondering whether we’ve done enough, been fair enough, made the right decision. I feel for all the hours of effort put in by the unsuccessful companies and for the many hours put in by people here at York. Standing back, though, isn’t it better to reach a decision knowing that nothing is ever perfect? Whatever system we choose, there is a lot of work facing us here, of which technology is a small but significant part. Hopefully soon we can begin our task proper, of implementing a repository, working with our users to help make it meet their needs and filling it with valuable content.

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