A Computer Hardware/software/services Planning and Selection Course for the CIS/IT Curriculum

Article excerpt

Introduction

The purpose of this paper is to present the case that viable Computer Information Systems (CIS) and Information Technology (IT) academic programs should include a senior level course in the area of computer hardware, software, services planning and selection. Over the past 40 years, a large body of knowledge has formed in this area, and the time has come for educators to seriously consider the inclusion of such a course in CIS and IT programs.

In many cases today, enterprise level hardware and software systems range in cost from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Today's CIS/IT graduates need such a course in order to plan, design, and select computer hardware, software, and services in a cost effective manner in order to meet an organization's needs. Whether or not university graduates are directly in charge, or just as importantly, they are an active member of a committee that is responsible for the successful acquisition of hardware, software, and/or services, the content of a course such as this is becoming ever more important. The authors' engagement (consulting) activities with government, not-for-profit, and various size corporations continues to demonstrate that many of their current staff do not have the necessary background or expertise in subject matters identified in this paper to help protect their organizations from bad decisions.

During the past two decades, Purdue University Calumet has offered a senior level course titled, CIS483 Computer Hardware/Software Selection, which has been refined and revised over the years. Well over 1,000 students have taken this course during that time. Feedback from our CIS alumni as well as business and industry advisory committee members are a constant source of input in this revision process. Early versions of the course have been described by (Maniotes & Winer 1999) and the various options in our CIS programs have been described by (Winer & Maniotes 2001).

The Major Topics

Topics for this upper level course should include the following:

(1) Survey of the computer and IT market places.

(2) Past, present, and future trends in IT

(3) Organizational and administrative considerations in the selection process

(4) Analysis of needs (requirements analysis)

(5) How to prepare and formulate requirements for RFx's (RFP's, RFB's, RFQ's and RFI's)

(6) The composition of the Request for Proposals (RFP) and the Request for Bids (RFB) documents

(7) Vendor responses to the RFP or RFB

(8) How to validate proposed system's characteristics and performance

(9) Performance measurement approaches including benchmarking of systems

(10) Application of various kinds of quantitative selection approaches

(11) How to conduct the negotiation process with vendors and identify techniques and maneuvers to use via role playing techniques

(12) Application of various procurement techniques, such as buy, rent, or lease and determine quantitatively the breakeven points for each technique

(13) How to analyze vendor contracts and their clauses

(14) Pertinent patents, copyrights, licensing agreements, and trade secrets in the IT industry

(15) Identification of expected conversion and compatibility issues

(16) Installation and implementation considerations

(17) Check lists of useful information

(18) The student team project

(19) Case studies

A fundamental task for CIS/IT educators is to help students understand the importance, composition, and legal issues involved with many of these major topics. Furthermore, these topics can serve as a guide to CIS/IT educators to consider in customizing a course such as this.

The Instructional Materials

A single textbook covering in detail all of the aforementioned topics does not currently exist under one cover. …