By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
School districts are always looking to get the most for their dollar when it comes to technology purchases. Purchasing cooperatives are a great resource. I have used purchasing cooperatives many times but I have added my own twist. I will explain what I do later in this post. I will begin by explaining how purchasing cooperatives work.
What is a Purchasing Cooperative?
Purchasing cooperatives are procurement arrangements through which public schools can purchase technology equipment and services at a brokered discount. Generally, purchasing cooperatives consist of a variety of categories of products and services. Vetted vendors are included under specific categories and specific contracts.
Purchasing cooperatives can be found at the national, state, and regional levels. One place where a school district can find purchasing contracts is with the United States General Services Administration. In Texas, school districts can take advantage of the contracts found through the Texas Department of Information Resources. Also in Texas, several of the twenty Educational Service Centers provide purchasing cooperatives.
Benefits of Purchasing Cooperatives
One of the benefits of using purchasing cooperatives is that school districts are relieved from having to conduct a full request for proposal (RFP) in order to procure a product or service. Anyone involved in an RFP can attest to the heavy investment of time in developing, publicizing, receiving, and analyzing proposals from multiple vendors. In most cases, a single RFP can take several weeks to complete.
Not Always the Lowest Price
An assumption that is often made about purchasing cooperatives is that these cooperatives provide the lowest pricing. In theory, purchasing cooperatives can achieve discounted pricing through the power of bulk purchasing. I have often found that this is not always the case. I actually had a conversation with a vendor this week that participates in several purchasing cooperatives. The vendor confirmed that my summation was correct.
How to Make the Most of Every District Dollar
So here is where my twist comes in. And honestly, this process can be used for any product or service, whether technology oriented or not.
I begin by creating specifications of the equipment or service that I intend to purchase. I then select five or so vendors from an accepted purchasing cooperative in order to get around having to carry out a full blown RFP. If I am looking for a specific brand name on equipment, I will reach out to vendors that maintain an official partnership with the manufacturer. I then provide each vendor a copy of the specifications and let them know that I am taking in competitive quotes. I establish a deadline by which proposals are to be received in order to be considered. Once the proposals are received, I verify that each proposal meets my specifications and compare prices. I have found that this process provides me with the most discounted pricing.
Using this process has allowed me to make the most cost effective technology equipment purchases while saving a significant amount of time in the procurement process. Needless to say, this is one of the best options that I have used over the years.
The investment of energy and time in following this process isn’t all that much. The payoff is worth it. After all, any money saved, is a definite plus for any public school district.
Looking for more tips? Check out Four Services That Can Help with Ed-Tech Purchasing.