CS 481 - Trends in Computer Science

Week 5: Project presentations, next project requirements


This week we conclude your first major project, and discuss the next major project for the term. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Presentations of mid-term projects
  2. Review the requirements for the second project
  3. Resources for RFPs and some notes to begin moving toward writing one

This week, we will begin with your presentations. There are only a few students in class, so we can assume there will be plenty of time to present each of your projects, then move on to tonight's material.

Assuming we have done the presentations, we may hope that one or more of them has caught the interest of the rest of the class, without becoming too dull for the presenter. We would like to use the material you have already gathered in the context of the second major project for the term. Let's examine the major requirements for this project:

  1. In groups of 2 or 3 students, decide upon a relevant, in-demand software or hardware product to implement at a fictitious company. 
  2. Develop an RFP (Request For Proposal) document to acquire and implement that new software product. 
  3. Use industry best practices to analyze the project requirements, needed deliverables, insourcing vs. outsourcing of services, and develop a scoring strategy to rate the responses

Since we do not have a text for this class, I will refer to one you may have used in another class for some relevant discussion. The following discussion is from my notes for CIS 303, about the 6th edition of Systems Architecture.

On page 534, the text discusses acquisitions. People acquire new hardware, software, and systems for many reasons. The better point is that making an acquisition should be done for good business reasons. Creating a business case for a system change is required in most organizations, and having that business case approved does not necessarily end the process. Adding new systems, or components for them, is more complex than just buying a new printer or a new computer. Often, a bidding process must be followed which can begin with a request for proposal (RFP). This list of five steps appears on page 534:

  1. Determine what you want to buy, and what it supports in your enterprise. This is the business case.
  2. Specify what the system or components must do. This is the statement of technical requirements.
  3. Create a request for proposal (RFP). This is an invitation to vendors to bid on the job. It should include the technical requirements, and may or may not include the business case.
  4. Evaluate the responses to the RFP. This may lead to asking approved vendors for a response to a request for quote (RFQ). The RFQ is a request for an actual price on a system or item.
  5. Evaluate the RFQ responses or proceed with a choice from the RFP responses. Create a contract with the selected vendor.

On page 535, the text begins to elaborate on the steps listed above. The section on preparing an RFP includes the following material.

Components of an RFP:

  • Requester (the entity requesting the bid) identification, address, contact information
  • Required content sections and format for responses - what must be included in the vendor response
  • Due date for responses
  • Minimum technical requirements
    • hardware and software requirements
    • installation and training requirements
    • maintenance requirements
    • minimum warranty and guarantee requirements
    • service requirements
    • cost and payment requirements
  • Requirements the bidder must meet - may include training, service, product warranty, or other required features
  • Evaluation criteria for the responses

The text continues with a discussion about the evaluation process. Proposals must be rated as acceptable or not. Acceptable proposals must be scored. High scoring proposals must be validated: the claims of the bidder must be examined for accuracy and probability of success.

As you can see, an RFP includes all the features that the requester and the bidder must understand in order to obtain valid bids, and to understand how those bids will be evaluated. The RFP must contain the material the bidder needs to comply with the process, so the elements listed in the three requirements for your project are valid.

We can discuss the next steps in class. You are to form a group, pick a product or service for your RFP, and determine what your RFP will look like.