Playing the Procurement Game: Using Sole Source Contracting To Get The Software You Need

When looking at making any sort of purchase at your venue, especially software, it can be a daunting endeavor no doubt.  The purchasing process is like the game of Chess, strategy is key to winning and knowing the rules are critical to your success.  The hoops you need to jump through or committees that need to be convened in order to secure a software system can dissuade even the most seasoned professional.  A typical request for proposal or RFP can take months or years to organize providing you with little time to implement a system once, or should I say if, a decision is ever made.  Are there any other options that exist when it comes to avoiding a painful requisition process at your institution?

You might consider investigating a sole source as an alternative for a few reasons.  First things first what the heck is a sole source anyways?  A sole source is usually defined as any contract entered into without a competitive process, based on a justification that only one known supplier can fulfill the requirements. For example, only one particular vendor can meet the business needs of the organization.  When it comes to information technology in particular, it is one of the most common sole source procurement contracts awarded due to the unique nature and business compatibility of the solution.

I realize a sole source may not work in every single situation.  For example, if the product/service you desire exceeds a certain threshold established by the organization or institution, you may not have any choice.  However, if you have done your due diligence and know there is really only one solution that meets your needs and falls under a cap this is a solid option.  Besides getting what you want, the other benefit is that a sole source can significantly reduce the time to secure the product or service.  As they say time is money and if your business is struggling to manage its growth the months and months that it takes to go through a formal RFP could have some serious consequences.  It also requires less work for the procurement manager making this a win-win for everyone.

Now that we covered the basics, what is the next step?  Contact your procurement department and ask about sole sourcing.  You will want to find out what, if any, threshold may exist as this will be important to know before you get to far down the road.  The procurement manager may have some sample sole source contracts on file to help get things moving.  Finally, make sure you do some homework as you will likely need to provide justification for the sole source.  The vendor you want to work with is a great resource, so get them involved as they can provide a good amount of information that will improve your chances of getting the contract approved.  If you follow these few simple steps the procurement game is one you will master and walk away a winner.