Education seeks simpler supply arrangements

A lucrative contract for exclusive supply of desktop and laptop PCs and servers for the Ministry of Education is in the offing.

A lucrative contract for exclusive supply of desktop and laptop PCs and servers for the Ministry of Education is in the offing.

The ministry, faced with a mixture of equipment, particularly since its merger in February with Special Education Services, can see savings through reducing its suppliers to one or a few, says CIO Bruce Moorhead.

Depending on the responses, a single supplier could be chosen for all lines, he says, but there may be one for desktops, one for laptops and one for servers, as it is possible different suppliers would have strengths in different parts of the range.

The chosen supplier(s) would have the exclusive right to meet the ministry’s requirements for a period of three years, beginning early next year, with an optional extension for a further two.

The ministry has issued a request for registration of interest, scheduled to close on Wednesday. Selection of a short list of suppliers to receive the request for proposal will be done “before Christmas”, Moorhead says, and a final choice of supplier or suppliers by late January.

The SES merger took the ministry’s staff from around 800 to 3000, with an expansion in its PC and server population from about 800 to about 2000. Servers currently come from HP and Dell and the PCs comprise “a bit of everything”, he says. Toshiba has a significant presence in laptops.

The bulk arrangement will mean economies of scale, Moorhead says; the ministry will only have to cultivate expertise in a limited number of machines among its maintenance staff, and maintain a smaller number of “images” for setting up new machines.

Closer and more dedicated contact with one of a few suppliers will probably mean getting greater value from their expertise, he says. And when tenders are issued for refreshes of equipment, they will only have to go to the appropriate chosen supplier, avoiding a separate competitive tender each time. Such tendering exercises are expensive for both customer and supplier, he says.

“I see this as the first of a number of arrangements,” Moorhead says. Printer hardware is likely to be the subject of a similar deal around the middle of next year, and then the ministry will look at adopting a uniform scheme for the supply of IT services.

The danger of missing out on technology advances through selecting the wrong supplier is minimal in the commoditised PC and server world, he says.

“We’ve said we’re interested in Intel-based hardware,” and any advances in that tend to be reproduced by all Intel-based PC manufacturers. If an innovation comes up in the next few years outside the Intel sphere “that could be the subject of a separate tender”.

Based on current activity, the ministry expects to turn over about 500 PCs and 30 servers a year, Moorhead says.

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