Procurement: an increasingly complex challenge

SWITCH has created a centre of expertise for IT procurement.

Text: published on 12.05.2016


Procurement became an issue for SWITCH due to a need expressed by universities. In May 2012, the Foundation Committee mandated SWITCH’s Management Board to set up a centre of expertise for software licensing and other IT goods and services. The universities had realised that licence agreements were becoming more and more complex. At the same time, pressure to keep costs low is forcing software manufacturers to sign framework agreements for a broad cross-section of customers.


Searching for alternative solutions

Not long afterwards, in 2013, the SWITCHprocure Working Group (SWITCHprocure WG) was formed. It also serves as an information hub. The WG's members put forward the needs, wishes and experiences of their respective institutions and pass any findings on to the people responsible within their organisations. Alternative solutions, possible trends and future developments are also presented at the WG's meetings, which also provide a platform for informal contact.

When several universities are found to have similar needs with regard to IT suppliers, SWITCH takes the lead and conducts surveys to collect more precise information. The results then flow into negotiations with suppliers.

The IT staff at the university in Rapperswil really appreciate how SWITCH acts as an information hub between the universities and software providers and how it takes the effort of negotiating various contracts out of our hands. SWITCHprocure works with us as a partner, and its services save us time, money and energy.

Erich Werder, Head of IT Operations & Services HSR Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil

The members of the SWITCHprocure WG are kept informed about the progress of these negotiations and are sometimes invited to play an active role in them. Especially for industry-standard products like Microsoft’s, it has become clear that the universities have very similar needs, so it makes sense to sign a framework agreement that they can join up to. The Microsoft framework agreement, for instance, saves them roughly CHF 1.5 million a year. Added to this is the fact that the 75 or so institutions that have joined up save time because they do not need to conduct their own separate negotiations.

Expert group for licences

The Licences Expert Group (Licences EG) has been formed as a subgroup of the WG to discuss issues specific to individual contracts and suppliers in greater depth. It aims to consult experts in the relevant subject areas in order to analyse problems and work out solutions for presentation to the WG. The WG meets in the spring and autumn, whereas the EG meets every quarter or as often as deemed necessary.

For a university to be part of a community and exchange experiences definitely brings concrete benefits. SWITCHprocure, in addition to being a service, is also one of several community developed and supported with success by SWITCH.

Mario Gay TI-EDU IT Service Università della Svizzera Italiana

In licence negotiations in particular, complex legal issues often arise. When they do, representatives of SWITCH’s legal team or the ICT Law WG are brought into the negotiations.

The SWITCHprocure WG also fosters dialogue with the Swiss Conference on Informatics (SIK) as well as the national centre for information and communications technology in education (Educa). International cooperation with counterparts in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands is proving highly productive. The insights gained from it are presented to the SWITCHprocure WG and can flow into contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, the WG offers suppliers an opportunity to present new products or licence metrics and make new contacts with the universities.

Simone Welti, Head of Licences, Media and Information Centre, ZHdK

Independent learning with video tutorials

SWITCHprocure has negotiated a framework agreement for universities with and its subsidiary video2brain. With effect from 1 March 2016, the new agreement offers the same terms for all universities that sign up and brings substantial savings compared with previous licences. For the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK), now is the ideal time to launch the product.

The platform offers almost 70,000 training videos arranged into 1,600 online courses in four languages. They are designed for self-study and can be viewed at an institution, at home or even on the move with a mobile device.

Closing knowledge gaps

The tutorials cover such software and creative skills as image and word processing, spreadsheets, 3D technology, film editing and marketing. They can provide a foundation to build on with conventional training or a fast and targeted means of closing specific knowledge gaps.
This is essential in lightening the workload of teaching staff and reducing training costs, and it opens up massive potential in e-learning.

Beneficial framework agreement

The Media and Information Centre has been working with ZHdK’s E-Learning Officer and IT Centre for a long time on the question of how best to help students improve their software skills. A number of formats and platforms have been evaluated. In a survey conducted by SWITCHprocure, ZHdK and 14 other institutions came out in favour of the platform.

SWITCH handled the lengthy and complex negotiations that resulted in a framework agreement offering excellent terms for universities. As well as clarification and certainty on legal aspects, other plus points include the established AAI login and the licence model.

ZHdK is confident that this agreement addresses an acute need, providing its 2,500 students with a complete range of videos in English and German as well as a contingent of 1,000 licences.

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