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Checklist for buying local government websites

  • Appoint one person, the product owner, to lead the process and empower them to make the final decision, especially if they are the primary users/administrators.
  • Establish business rules/needs and guiding purpose/principles first (not vendor lists or technical specifications).
  • Move the process along so that you successfully launch in a timely manner and realize the immediate benefits of modern solutions to better serve your community.
  • Issue a request for information to gather external input as to what your best options are with respect to your business rules and needs.
  • Issue a request for proposal, if necessary, soliciting pricing information based on the RFI response.
  • Schedule a product demo meeting and allow ample time for questions and answers. Use this opportunity to fully understand the specific product offering and develop a rapport with potential vendors. Include key stakeholders in this meeting. Be prepared with questions specific to the vendor. Keep it conversational. If a proposal has already been submitted, make sure all participants have thoroughly reviewed this. See ‘Questions for vendors’ below.
  • Try before you buy. If the vendor is unable to provide a free trial, even for a limited time period, this might be an indication that this is a bespoke service, which may not meet long-term needs relating to product updates (new features, security updates, bug fixes).
  • Pick based on continuous software updates based on a standard pricing (preferably monthly/annually subscription) and service level agreement (hosting and support).
  • Request specific license information. For example, with open source, saying "we're open source" or "we use open source" is much different than "our license is "GNU General Public License, version 2 or later."
  • Ensure there is an application programming interface (API) that can integrate easily with other software.
  • Communicate effectively with all parties -- internal and external -- throughout the process.
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