SUBJECT: Administrative Information System (AIS) Project
Three of six vendor responses to the February Request for Proposal (RFP) were evaluated in depth to determine the best option for the campus. Proposals were evaluated from many perspectives, but five criteria were paramount. After a functional evaluation of the vendors' proposals, only one, SCT and its Banner software, met all these criteria.
- Technology. A fully integrated software package executing on one relational database in a thin client environment.
SCT Banner: meets this requirement
Sungard Bi-Tech: separate databases for financial and student data
Datatel: Unidata, their database, does not meet all criteria of a relational database
- Functionality. The software must support the student services and financial needs of the entire campus community.
SCT Banner: meets this requirement
Sungard Bi-Tech: student system, financial aid in particular, does not meet minimum
Datatel: unsatisfactory reporting capability
- Implementation and Maintenance. The company must have the resources available to provide adequate technical and end-user support.
SCT Banner: meets this requirement
Sungard Bi-Tech: adequate support for financial component, very weak support for
Datatel: meets this requirement, but many services require travel to Datatel's offices
- Client Relationships. The company selected must have a client base with institutions similar to Washburn University.
SCT Banner: meets this requirement
Sungard Bi-Tech: no client similar to Washburn using both financial and student
components in a Unix environment
Datatel: client base made up of schools with less than 1,000 students and community
- Mission and Vision. The software selected must be a fully integrated information system that provides complete web access for students, faculty and staff.
SCT Banner: meets this requirement
Sungard Bi-Tech: more development is necessary before system is fully integrated
Datatel: web access very limited
It is the collective judgment of the Selection Team, Project Management Team and Steering Committee that the solution which best meets campus needs now and in the foreseeable future is SCT Banner. Although total costs for SCT Banner are greater than the other vendors, it is the only one to fully meet campus needs. Costs have been carefully analyzed and are reasonable given our requirements.. Those involved with the project feel the additional investment at the outset of the project will pay dividends by not having to incur additional internal or vendor costs to achieve the required level of functionality.
As reported at the June and July, 2001 Board meetings, the AIS project has been moving toward implementation with total campus involvement. Following February's Request for Proposal (RFP), six vendors responded and, following an initial review, three vendors were given serious consideration and subjected to an intensive review. These vendors are Datatel, SCT Banner, and Sungard Bi-Tech.
The Steering Committee approved a Selection Team to serve as a subcommittee of the Project Management Team. The Selection Team evaluated these three vendors as part of the University's due diligence in selecting a software vendor. The evaluation process included vendor demonstrations at Washburn, visiting other campuses with the software application, visiting the vendor's headquarters, numerous telephone reference checks, and solicitation of comments from peers on other campuses. The functionality of each software solution was evaluated independently of cost considerations, vendor cost responses to the RFP were not shared with members of the Selection Team.
The evaluation of each software solution was completed in light of the mission statement developed during a November retreat which involved over 60 University personnel. That mission statement is "To serve the needs of the University community, the Administrative Information Systems (AIS) project will facilitate the identification, adoption, implementation, and evaluation of an integrated information system. The system will be intuitive, efficient, reliable and extendable."
The selection also was guided by five criteria deemed essential for successful implementation. The Selection Team's recommendation and a portion of its report are included as Attachment A. After weeks of evaluation, the Project Management Team recommended SCT Banner to the steering committee on July 10, 2001 as the only software solution consistent with our mission statement which met the selection criteria.
SCT Banner is recommended because it is based on a flexible, secure, reliable, single, integrated relational database with significant access through web browser capability which operates well within Washburn's thin client environment. SCT also has demonstrated its commitment to higher education with a well-documented record of successful implementations and ongoing support of its software in a client base made up of institutions similar to Washburn.
Sungard Bi-Tech was found unacceptable because it does not meet the requirement of being a fully integrated information system. Sungard Bi-Tech (the financial software vendor) completed the acquisition of SRN (the student software vendor) in July, 2001. Currently, each system is operated on a separate database. For example, this means a student employee record exists in both the financial and the student databases. While there is no doubt that Sungard Bi-Tech has a very strong financial package, serious weaknesses were identified for the SRN student software including lack of functionality, lack of adequate technical support, and concerns regarding the availability of the imaging and reporting functions that were integrated into the financial software.
Datatel was eliminated from consideration due to technology weakness. The Datatel software was developed for use on the Unidata database. This database does not have referential integrity, a requirement for a truly relational database. The administrative software can only be as strong as the database upon which it is built. Datatel was eliminated because Unidata was not sufficiently robust for use by a university of Washburn's complexity. Beyond the technical issues, there also were significant concerns about both training and on-going support. Because Datatel does not provide unlimited technical support, there would be ongoing costs associated with accessing the Datatel help desk.
After consideration of functionality and fit, vendor costs were compared. Attachment B shows a comparison of costs based upon the RFP. After extensive review and discussion, the Steering Committee concluded that functionality considerations outweighed estimated cost differences and SCT Banner represents the best campus solution.
The AIS project, replacing the University's non-integrated legacy information systems software with a product which permits us to operate a fully integrated information system, requires a significant investment of time, effort and capital, not only to implement the software and the new processes, but to sustain it for maximum performance and a return on that investment. Over the course of the next three years, this project will involve the purchase of software and services from SCT, equipment purchases, hiring and reallocating personnel, and ongoing annual maintenance costs. Each of these elements is briefly discussed below.
SCT Banner Software and Services Contract:
Negotiations are underway with SCT for Banner software. The University has contracted with its own consultant to provide advice during these negotiations. Additionally, various other third party software packages offered through SCT are also being recommended at this time to ensure a full service solution to the entire campus community including imaging and on-line payments from students, alumni, and other constituents.
SCT will provide significant consultative and tutorial services to ensure the successful conversion of the appropriate data from the legacy system and to obtain the training necessary so University personnel are able to provide the ongoing maintenance and support of this software solution. Negotiated SCT software costs are $500,000, third party software costs are $314,000, and implementation services are $1,221,000. The $2,035,000 for the SCT-Banner software and services contract are one-time acquisition costs. A comparison of the RFP and negotiated costs are contained in Attachment C.
Purchase of Equipment:
Additional hardware is required to support this, or any other, software solution. The existing AS400 must continue to operate the legacy system during implementation and may be required for archives, but it is not equipped to operate a relational database in the preferred UNIX environment. The hardware configuration for the production database was let out for bid to five different vendors. The lowest bid in response to that request was $188,415 (See Attachment D). In addition to this purchase, additional NT servers may need to be acquired to fully support the web-based and imaging aspects of the software. Additional NT servers for supplemental services are estimated to cost an additional $210,000, and will be acquired as needed during the implementation period. The $400,000 for equipment is a one-time capital cost.
Hiring of New Personnel:
The SCT Banner solution will allow Washburn University to provide flexible, and expanded integrated services to the entire campus community. Because of the magnitude and complexity of this project, an overall evaluation of personnel needs is necessary. Many positions currently supporting our operation may be expanded or reallocated to provide the services needed to optimize the utility of this new software. There is no question it will be necessary to hire additional personnel to provide the necessary level of service. Additional staff may include a system administrator, user support personnel, web programmers and computer operators. Additional annual costs for these new positions will vary depending on opportunities for reallocation, but resources necessary for implementation will be a priority budget item. Positions will be brought to the Board for approval as required, and we anticipate some new positions will be required immediately in order to have these individuals in place for the initial set-up and training that will be provided by SCT personnel. These annual personnel costs will be ongoing net of reallocations.
Annual Maintenance Costs
The hardware and software will add to the annual operating budget for the University. Annual: maintenance agreements are an integral element necessary for the ongoing success of this project to ensure software integrity and upgrades. Software maintenance has been negotiated at $170,000 and hardware maintenance (assuming $400,000 in hardware) at $40,000. The $210,000 is an ongoing annual cost.
The cost of this project, based upon negotiated results with SCT to date, is presented here.
Banner Software $ 500,000
Third Party Software 314,000
Implementation Services 1,221,000
Subtotal SCT $2,035,000
Equipment (estimate) 400,000
Total Capital Costs $2,435,000
Additional personnel $Unknown
Software Maintenance 170,000
Hardware Maintenance (estimate) 40,000
Total Operating Costs: $
Total payments to SCT for the Banner and third party software and implementation services will be $2,035,000 which is less than the $2,170,520 proposed in the RFP. The costs presented above include the SCT travel reimbursement for consulting services, while these costs were not included in the cost comparison presented in Exhibit B. All vendors require travel reimbursement. Through the negotiation process, the software costs were reduced and some of the dollar savings have been reallocated to enhanced project management and business process analysis services. Some software and services were added to enhance the final solution, at the same time that workflow software and services were eliminated. Workflow software and services will be retained in the negotiated contract as options, eliminating the need to immediately fund a component of the suggested solution that is unlikely to be implemented during the first three years. See Attachment C for a comparison of the RFP price quote with the negotiated contract pricing.
Funding for this project has been set aside in Fund 12 from sales tax receipts. For the past two years, $850,000 has been set aside annually to fund this project. An additional $850,000 will be set aside during the current fiscal year, bringing the total available for one-time project funding to $2,550,000. Expenditures for Infinet, telephone registration software, and the debit card system have already been taken from Fund 12. With interest earnings and additional transfers, Fund 12 had an ending balance of $1,686,570 at June 30, 2000 (prior to the FY'02 $850,000 allocation).
Personnel costs and annual maintenance will be funded as a budgeting priority and through any savings available from reallocations. Exact personnel costs have not yet been determined and on-going maintenance costs are estimated at $210,000.
President Farley recommends that:
a) the Board of Regents authorize the University to contract with SCT for the recommended software and the level of service described, and
b) the Board of Regents authorize the purchase of the recommended hardware in the amount of $188,415.
Date Jerry B. Farley, President
Section I: Executive Summary of Recommendation
The Project-Management Team ranks the vendor SCT as preferred and recommends its solution as the new administrative information system for Washburn University.
1) a list of courses showing requirements that have been met;
2) a list of courses from which to select remaining requirements;
3) the ability to do "what ifs" with respect to other possible degrees.
The second section of this document will review the selection process and provide an exposition of the rationale for this recommendation.
Section II: Summary of Process and Decision Making Rationale
A dynamic institution, like Washburn University, needs a flexible and robust student-administrative information system. Although our legacy system has served us well, the institutional needs can no longer be met by this system. Two options exist as potential solutions to this problem: (1) we could undertake in-house development of a new system or (2) we could purchase software from an external vendor. The "home-grown" solution is at first review most compelling because it could be tailored to our practices and needs. However, the resources needed to develop a package of sufficient robustness, to support our growth over the next twenty years, make this option unacceptable. The second option offers us the opportunity to partner with a company committed to higher education software development. This will allow us to leverage their resources to keep up with federal requirements and technology changes. We will be able to focus our internal resources on maximizing the functionality of an existing product. With this option, we also will become a member of the product's user community providing the opportunity to share best-practices with other institutions. As an institution, we elected to pursue the second option and embarked on a selection process.
At the beginning of the selection process the Steering Committee (Appendix 1) convened a Project-Management Team (Appendix 2) and a Change-Management Team (Appendix 3). A subset of this group was designated as the Selection Team. Membership of the Selection Team represented the functional areas of the University. The Change-Management Team was charged with ensuring that the University community is informed and involved in the project. The Project-Management Team was charged with the implementation beginning with the essential first step of vendor selection which required the development of a Request for Proposal (RFP). The structure and substance of the RFP resulted from an integration of input from team members and other University faculty and staff. Utilization of the web allowed for wide dissemination of the document. Members of the Selection Team were charged with reviewing and responding to input by non-team members. This review and editing process was instituted to ensure that the RFP reflected the needs of the Washburn community. Construction of the RFP in this manner ensured that it was a comprehensive document reflecting the campus-wide requirements of any system. The time invested in developing a thorough and comprehensive RFP was essential so that the document could form the foundation of our evaluation system. Once we were confident that the RFP was complete, it was distributed to vendors.
The Selection Team continued to meet during the time period allocated for vendors to submit proposals. This time period was used to develop an evaluation plan that would be used to select the vendor. This evaluation process involved several phases. The zeroth phase was a preliminary budget review by the co-chairs of the Steering Committee of all the proposals received. At the conclusion of this phase all proposals were evaluated as acceptable and were passed to the Selection Team. During the next phase, an important, on-going principle of our evaluation process was employed for the first time. This principle states that a single criterion would not be sufficient for selecting a vendor; however, a criterion, judged of sufficient importance to the entire community, would be sufficient to eliminate a vendor from consideration. This principle guided the project co-chairs as they completed the first phase of the evaluation process. This phase consisted of a review of the technological specifications outlined in the proposals. At the conclusion of this phase three proposals were evaluated as unacceptable for not meeting a minimum set of technology criteria (Appendix 5). Although they had been charged with completing this phase of the evaluation process, consistent with the project ground rules, the co-leaders discussed their evaluation with the entire Selection Team. The Selection Team thoroughly reviewed the proposals and concurred with the evaluation of the co-chairs.
The remaining three proposals were passed to the entire Selection Team for preliminary ranking. The team members were charged with evaluating the proposals as "good", "better", or "best" using an strategy similar to that employed by search committees, created to select personnel for professional positions. Concurrent to the evaluation by the Selection Team, the proposals were available for review by all other members of the Project-Management Team. During this second phase of the project there were frequent exchanges of questions and comments between all members of the Project-Management Team. Members of the team also began the process of ferreting out information from professional colleagues. This feedback was often anecdotal. It provided members of the team with broader understanding of the implementation process and enhanced our ability to be productive in the subsequent phases of the evaluation process. At the conclusion of the second phase, it was the consensus of the Selection Team that the three remaining vendors should be invited to campus to present demonstrations of their product and to respond to questions. These vendor demonstrations were arranged (Appendix 6) and two evaluation rubrics were developed (Appendices 7 and 8). One rubric was used by the members of the Project-Management Team and the other by members of the community who attended vendor demonstration sessions.
The members of the selection team entered this phase of the process with an informal rubric for evaluation as well as the very specific functionality evaluation instrument. We recognized that there were global issues to be considered in making a technology decision for the University community. The team was cognizant that we would be working with this product for at least the next 15 years. The other criteria considered were: (1) implementation resources demands and ongoing (post implementation) demands - will we be able to both implement and maintain the product and will the product be a tool for our continued growth as an institution, (2) client relationships and support services - will we be able to depend on this vendor as a partner in a long-term relationship, (3) technology demands - will the product work in our environment and will it support our technology goals, (4) functionality - will the product allow us to be more productive and responsive to our constituents, and (5) mission and future - will the product not only support our mission but support our future endeavors.
Anticipating that 2 or 3 of the vendors would still be under consideration at the conclusion of the on-campus demonstrations, the Selection Team developed an action plan for additional review activities. Information was obtained through telephone and/or e-mail reference checks. According to practice, the team developed a list of questions (Appendix 8) for use by each team member when discussing the software product with colleagues. The reference list was constructed and members of the Selection Team agreed to make contact with their counterparts at the identified institutions. Representatives of the Selection Team visited the vendor corporate headquarters to conduct more extensive interviews of the vendors (Appendix 9). Finally, members of the Selection Team, representing the functional areas, conducted site visits to campuses currently using the products under consideration. The other members of the Project-Management Team were also contributing feedback to the Selection Team. Most members of the team participate in listservs with peers from other institutions. In general, we found that our peers were very willing to discuss their experiences and respond to our questions. The review of this material was conducted in a manner consistent with the accepted qualitative research practices. As is traditionally done in a phenomenological study, the transcripts were analyzed for themes. Only those themes that were present in at least two transcripts were considered. We used this threshold to help ensure that individual biases were not reflected in the reported data. The raw transcript data was read by members of the Selection Team for the purpose of constructing the analysis. The qualitative analysis was reviewed and approved by the entire Selection Team. A summary of the strengths and weaknesses that emerged from these venues is included as Sections IV and V.
After completing the various evaluation activities, the Selection Team met to consider the products to develop a recommendation for consideration by the project team. The recommendation shared with the Project-Management Team was in the form of the strengths and weaknesses of each product and a ranking of preferred, acceptable or unacceptable solution. After review and consideration by the Project-Management Team, the recommendation was submitted to the Steering Committee for their consideration.
Section III: Vendor Recommendation Justification
After careful consideration of all of the data, the project management team recommends the selection of the vendor SCT as the vendor for the new administrative information system for Washburn University. A partnership with SCT will ensure that we are working with a company both with a documented ability to provide services to a higher education institution and with a renewed commitment to the higher education market place. Although they are an established company in the field of higher education technology solutions, SCT is not complacent. Their most recent annual report acknowledges the educational division as pivotal to the ongoing success of the company.
To make this recommendation we needed to find the "best fit" for Washburn University, and it is clear from our research that all of the vendors under consideration had strengths. As stated in section I, no single criterion was sufficient to ensure selection, but a single unacceptable could eliminate a vendor from consideration and would definitely eliminate it from the preferred category. Sungard-Bitech was removed from the preferred category because of weaknesses in critical student modules. This solution was not functional from the perspective of the financial aid office. Even though, the DegreeWorks module was outstanding, a number of references identified weaknesses in the other important student modules. Because Sungard-Bitech just completed the acquisition of SRN, we were not comfortable that the necessary technology transfer would be timely. This weakness was identified by many of the references. The institutions that use both products devote substantial resources to modifications and fixes. We also were uncomfortable with the paucity of higher education institutions using the integrated package. If we had selected Sungard-Bitech, we would have been the third installation on a UNIX platform. Finally, we were concerned about the lack of depth in their technical support staff. Accurate and timely technical support will be critical for our ongoing operation.
Datatel was eliminated from the preferred category, primarily, because of technology weakness. The Unidata database is not sufficiently robust, and we are not confident that Datatel has developed either the expertise or the interest to sufficiently support the use of ORACLE. During a presentation at the vendor site, it was obvious that the development focus was in the ORACLE direction. Given the recent acquisition of Informix by IBM, the future of Unidata is uncertain. However, it did not seem that the research and development efforts were being sufficiently focused toward ORACLE. If we selected Datatel, we would be the second ORACLE installation which means we would not be able to rely on peer institutions for support. Beyond the technical issues we had significant concerns about both the training and technical support. Datatel does not provide unlimited technical support. We believe that the ongoing cost, associated with accessing the help desk, would be prohibitive. We also evaluated the financial modules of the Datatel solution as the weakest of those under consideration.
SCT was the consensus preferred solution since it was the only solution not to be ranked as unacceptable by any member of the Selection Team. This recommendation is not without caveats. There is currently a weakness in the degree audit module. The vendor has indicated that the degree audit module will be available in the "Web for Students" and "Web for Faculty" applications by September 2001. These applications must be delivered in the version of SCT that we implement. Any other option is not acceptable. Also we feel very strongly that there must be institutional support for the increased staffing that will be necessary for the successful ongoing use of the SCT solution. All of our research validates this position. This is a powerful product, and it will help us fulfill our vision, but it will put significant demands on the IT staff and the functional areas. To be successful, we must add 4.5 additional IT staff members.
In summary SCT best met the five selection criteria. Criterion one considered implementation and maintenance. Based on the data collected from reference checks, user site visits, and vendor site visits we will be able to implement and maintain the solution as long as the appropriate resources are available. The company has a well-documented record of success in implementations. Criterion two considered client relationships. Institutions like Washburn are a significant component of the client base, and the company has demonstrated its commitment to higher education. They have a 100% client retention rate. Criterion three considered technology. The current technology is the most compatible with our environment, and their strategic technology plan is consistent with our vision. Criterion four considered functionality. All of the data supports the choice of SCT using this criterion. It is the preferred solution by most of the functional areas, and the reference checks and user site visits confirmed the functionality of the solution. Finally, criterion five considered mission and vision. This solution has demonstrated capabilities in terms of web access which supports our mission of making it easier for our constituents to access information. The company has articulated a desire to be a leader in developing tools for changing higher education environment which is consistent with our vision for Washburn University.
Attachment D: Pricing Summary for the Hardware Equipment for the AIS Project
Request for quotations for the following server hardware required for the Administrative Information System were sent to five (5) vendors:
IBM P660 server, 4 processors, 2048 MB memory, database production server
IBM P660 server, 4 processors, 2048 MB memory, database backup server
IBM P660 server, 1 processor, 512 MB memory, database testing server
These servers are to be used for production, backup and testing of project software which runs on the Oracle relational database.
Responses were received from the following four (4) vendors:
Vendor Total Amount of Bid
SourceOne, Inc $188,415.00
MSI Systems Integrators $193,303.36
Champion Solutions Group $200,819.00
The recommendation is to award to SourceOne, Inc, the lowest-price bidder.Attachments Associated with AIS Project