August 3, 2012

CT's $900K software buy exposes its frugal eye

CORRECTION: Connecticut did business with the Massachusetts sales office of a Florida firm that was bought by BMC Software. An earlier version incorrectly reported the firm was based in Massachusetts.

There's nothing particularly sexy about Connecticut paying $900,000 for "help desk'' and asset-tracking software from a Houston tech vendor.

But the backstory of how the state saved taxpayers at least $643,000 in the process makes interesting cocktail fodder and perhaps illustrates the fresh approach to fiscal responsibility taking root in state corridors.

The tale starts toward the end of 2011, when one of the state's self-described tech "geeks'' got wind that at least three agencies were weighing separate retail purchases of the aforementioned information-technology package from a small Tampa, Fla., software vendor later bought out by giant BMC Software of Houston.

Len Smith, who directs enterprise planning and architecture for the state Department of Administrative Services (DAS) – the state's procurement arm – immediately recognized opportunity amid a potential problem.

"We don't want to pay for things two or three times,'' Smith said.

Turns out, not only did DAS want the BMC FootPrints software for its IT system, but so, too, did the state's tax collector -- the Department of Revenue Services – as well as the transportation and emergency services and public protection agencies.

Pooling them, Smith's DAS team negotiated a single price with BMC for software to serve the four agencies. Meantime, two others – the Department of Children & Families and the Labor Department – piggybacked on the deal to leverage a lower price for a more robust version of BMC's software that met their needs.

And, when the Connecticut State University System got wind of what was happening, it got its foot in the discount door on a similar BMC package, Smith said.

Full retail price if purchased individually, Smith said: $1,543,782.

Moreover, DAS worked it out, he said, so that if, down the road, more agencies choose the FootPrints package, they can add it for a nominal licensing fee.

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