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eRA Update: From RFP Release to Vendor Selection

Contributed by: Matt Simpson

The eRA vendor demonstrations have ended and the implementation stage of the project is fast approaching. Let’s take this opportunity to quickly look back at how we got to where we are now in the eRA timeline.

After the RFP was released in May, vendors were given an opportunity to reply and six were deemed “responsive” by NC State’s Purchasing Department, according to Sherrie Settle, an eRA steering team liaison and the director of Sponsored Programs. In other words, six vendors met the critical requirements of the RFP.

These vendors were given the opportunity to provide virtual demonstrations for the eRA Steering Team. Based on their demos and the RFP responses provided, the Steering Team selected the three strongest vendors and invited them to campus for in-person demos.

The RFP contained more than 200 requirements — which were developed according to the multifaceted needs of all the different eRA stakeholder groups — and vendors were evaluated based on, among other factors, their ability to satisfy those requirements.

Each member of the eRA Steering Team, a committee made up of representatives from across campus who understand their constituents’ and stakeholders’ needs throughout the lifecycle of a sponsored research project, was given the opportunity to rate how well he or she thought the vendors met each requirement.

Four criteria accounted for the total weighted score for each vendor: ability to satisfy requirements (65%), cost (20%), vendor qualifications and experience (10%), and vendor’s proposed implementation plan (5%).

“We’re also evaluating the implementation process each vendor will bring to the table… how thoroughly and how time-effectively their products can be implemented,” said Director of Contracts and Grants Justo Torres, who is also a steering team liaison. “It’s not just a matter of picking the best product in isolation of performance.”

The on-campus demos that took place from Aug. 23 to Sept. 7 allowed the steering committee and, more importantly, stakeholders from all parts of campus to see the vendors’ systems live in action, and provide their feedback.

Settle said what we are asking stakeholders to do is more “customized to their particular use” than simply evaluating the product’s ability to meet requirements. She said the Steering Team wants to know how the product will meet different stakeholders’ needs in the specific areas in which they work.

“Every perspective is important,” Settle said. “We wanted to give all of the campus users the opportunity to evaluate the product and help inform our decision.”

In fact, Settle wanted to use this opportunity to remind folks across campus that the window for feedback on the vendor demos is still open, but that it will soon be closing. More feedback will result in a more informed decision being made, so please take the time to voice your opinion about the vendor demos before it’s too late.

You can use the links below to find each vendor’s list of recorded demos and a link to their feedback form.

The next step is for the steering team to discuss the vendor demonstrations, while incorporating campus feedback, in order to make a formal suggestion for purchase to the project’s executive sponsors. Stay tuned for additional updates on where we are with the eRA project.