Saturday, July 14, 2007


A best practice that should be used for selecting a business continuity solution.

IT managers have a plethora of solutions to choose from depending upon technical factors, business objectives, and, of course, available budget.

Providing continuous business operations is daunting. This is one of those tasks that have become more difficult because the number and kind of choices have multiplied. When I was growing up, it wasn’t difficult to brush my teeth. I would just pick up my toothbrush and go. When my kids were growing up, it was because they each had at least four toothbrushes to pick from.

“Which color tonight?” “Elmo or Cookie Monster?” Similarly, “IBM or EMC?”

There’s a configuration available for every budget and level of protection. Interoperability, or the product’s capability of working with other manufacturer’s products, is less of a concern today since practically all products—hardware or software—are interoperable. On the one hand, that’s good but on the other, it further complicates the decision tree.

“We’re an IBM shop; should we stay with IBM?” “What about our branch offices? Will a NetApp-Symantec solution suffice?”

When I’m grocery shopping, I don’t need assistance in deciding which coffee to buy. I have my regular brand and if a competing brand is on sale I know enough to decide whether to try the one on sale or not. That’s not the situation here. The “correct” solution is a decision that my organization will have to live with for years to come.

This is where I use the formal contract management process. Making sense of the buying complexity led me to learn and use it. Procurement and contract management is a subject in itself. I'll cover that in a future article.

I use procurement and contract management as a best practice. I use it since this is not a cursory purchase. It’s not wise to simply request any three or four vendors to make their presentations and submit proposals.

Procurement and contract management has three major phases. I call the first the Pre-award Phase (yes, I know it’s imaginative). For me, the buyer, I have to:

1. Plan the procurement.

2. Plan the solicitations.

3. Request the solicitations.


Procurement planning, the first activity, determines what to procure and when. It includes the people aspect. Do I plan to hire or train existing employees?


Solicitation planning, the second activity, fills in the details. I develop a Statement of Work (SOW) that contains my requirements. This is more difficult than it appears. I have to understand my own requirements and understanding those demand purposeful and far ranging analysis. Then I need to communicate those requirements using specific deliverables in the SOW. This purchase is inevitably going to be delivered through a project process. It’s very unlike a server equipment purchase. The solution will be delivered through a project because it requires the vendor to coordinate closely with the client to plan, configure, before the cut over.


The third activity is requesting solicitations through a Request for Proposal (RFP). This is where my thoroughness in the first two activities—procurement planning and solicitation planning—pays off. I’ll be creating an RFP that clearly communicates my needs. I must provide an accurate well-defined RFP in order to receive useful bids. By useful, I refer to bids that meet most of my requirements. Let’s face it. Before I settle on a vendor, I’ll sit down with the finalists to review, clarify, and negotiate the final contract. If I wrote a poor quality RFP, I’ll receive poor quality bids. And I’ll have more work, and consume more time, when I sit down with the finalists. I’ll need to re-define my requirements and then request the vendors that are still interested to submit bids again.

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