The Government’s newly released tender for a whole-of-government PC hardware provider panel holds some surprises, according to industry pundits.
The request for tender (RFT) to establish a whole-of-government panel opened this week and closes on March 4 at 2pm. It covers the supply of desktop and mobile computing equipment, monitors, and associated services such as installation and disposal.
The tender is valued at about $100 million per year.
Any tenderer is restricted to one example for each proposed device category. The panel runs for three years with two one-year extensions. According to Ovum research director, Kevin Noonan, the length of the contracts and likelihood of extensions meant companies that miss out will do so for years to come. The tender clearly favoured larger vendors and companies, he said.
“The vendor community has been living on bread and dripping for the last year-and-a-half while waiting for some of the purchasing processes to clarify,” he said. “This is a make or break. There’s an increasing tendency towards panels for major items.”
According to Noonan, the biggest development was the establishment of a strategic management committee with vendors and Government agencies to improve management of the contract over time.
“With this particular one, they’ve also reserved the right to have best and final offers and e-auctions on pricing,” he said. “Price ends up being a significant differentiator, so you get driven further and further down a commodity path. It also means further standardisation of standard operating environments.
“It’s good for agencies in terms of management, but it does reduce options for niche players to come in with particular differences because the price imperative will be so strong.”
PC assembler and integrator, ASI Solutions, already has a team working on its submission to get onto the panel. While most of the tender was in line with expectations, product manager, Craig Quinn, said it had been surprised by new specifications and restrictions.
“Its minimum requirement is a little higher spec than what we’ve seen in the past in terms of the processor and memory and so forth,” he said. “We’ve had lots of experience bidding for [Department of ] Defence work recently and the specs are very similar.”
One major point Quinn didn’t expect to see was the request that only one proposed unit be submitted per product category.
“I can understand from their side in that they end up with a massive amount of product to evaluate if people go in with three or four options per category, but it does mean in the desktop or notebook area that you make a decision on Intel or AMD and get locked into it,” he said.
An industry briefing is being held by the Department of Finance and Deregulation on February 11, but those thinking of attending must log their interest online at the AusTender website at least 48 hours before the event.
The proposed whole-of-government arrangement was first proposed by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, in October and followed an the Government’s decision to centralise IT infrastructure procurement and spending under the Gershon review.
According to the timeline provided by the RFT documents, successful tenderers will sign agreements by April/May 2010. This would match the timeline promised by the Government late last year, in which Tanner promised to have a whole-of-government panel set up by the end of the 2009/2010 financial year.