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How to Simplify Your New Website Vendor Selection and Redesign Process with TIPS
Sarah Van Tiem

When it comes to getting a snazzy new website, a large metropolitan or small suburban school district can do things the hard way or the easier way.

The hard way is akin to looking for true love: dreaming about what you want in that special someone and casting your net wide. It can take ages. And do you even have the resources to win the one you want? If so, is he or she a good fit? Does he or she actually suit your needs?

The easier way is like taking advantage of some kind of online dating service such as e-Harmony. A good matchmaker helps you figure out criteria and screen out potential losers.

Simplifying the Website Selection Process for Schools

Many school administrators and staff in search of good web design are all too familiar with the hard way.

Here's a condensed version of the "hard way," thanks to David Martinez of Loft9 Consulting in Seattle:

  • Does our school system need a new website?
  • If so, what works in the current site?
  • What needs to be different?
  • So how much money does this cost?
  • How do we write a proposal that is simply the first of many steps in the Official Procurement Process?
  • Where do we advertise?
  • Who screens the prospects?

"The process is complicated and time-consuming," said Martinez. "It can take months."

Website Redesign Playbook for Public Schools

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And for good reason. School systems spend public money. So governments need to make sure the public gets a high quality product, with no funny business on the side — especially when projects are large enough to go over a school district's procurement limits.

(Because shoddy product and/or funny business make no one happy but the lawyers.)

Bring on the website provider + district matchmaker: TIPS, or The Interlocal Purchasing System. Based in East Pittsburg, Texas, TIPS serves local governments nationwide. TIPS can help school systems dramatically increase their odds of getting an excellent website. It does so by separating the wheat from the chaff right away.

TIPS Website

"The great thing about us," says TIPS National Sales Manager Jeff Shokrian, "is that we do a lot of the members' legwork for them." Vendors respond to TIPS's requests for proposals to be considered for website design and other goods and services.

"We use a scoring structure that makes sure vendors meet the specific requirements for a project—and we have a baseline," says Shokrian.

Some vendors don't get past this first round. This initial screening saves a district time and labor, and helps ensure compliance burdens are met.

Just as importantly, because TIPS works with such a large pool of vendors, its members benefit from economies of scale. "One school system doesn't have all that much economic leverage," says Shokrian, "But three thousand or so do."

TIPS has 4,500 school system and other government agency members, and is one of several purchasing cooperatives across the country. Using TIPS' matchmaking services costs school systems nothing and offers quick access to vendors nationwide, such as Finalsite.

One caveat though – Shokrian stresses that the end-user is ultimately responsible for making sure the company hired meets whatever local requirements are in place.

Lake Washington School District found Finalsite through TIPS. TIPS advertises its contracts in USA Today as well as its hometown paper.

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Sarah Van Tiem

Motor City Girl who: reads, writes & loves her three kids unreservedly; Also loves gardening, swimming & her Electra Townie. Editing enthusiast. Believer in magic, all types.

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