Desktop/Laptop Purchasing Standards

June 2016

NIU has contracted with Dell to provide standard configurations for low, medium, and high power versions of both desktops and laptops.  Purchasing from the list of standard equipment will save your department money while greatly reducing the time to approve, purchase, and deliver your computer.  There is an exception form that requires justification and approval for those who cannot make use of the standard systems.

Purchasing Standard Models

For nearly fifteen months, IT directors from around campus have worked to reach agreement on how to configure, purchase, and maintain desktop and laptop computers.  There are many advantages to having standard configurations: improved vendor support, increased availability of parts, reduced purchase cost, reduced support costs, and allowing for more efficient software distribution. Our negotiated rates save over 20% on the unit cost of the equipment and should save almost $100 per machine each year in staff time spent supporting the equipment.

The Division of Information Technology (DoIT), members of the IT Planning Council and Procurement Services collaborated on the Request for Proposal, and subsequent negotiations led us to select Dell as our preferred vendor.  Dell will provide four models for desktops and four more for laptops.  Desktops and laptops will have low, medium, and high power variants with the medium class machines having two options.  These models will be revisited every year as Dell updates its technology options.

With these new purchasing standards in place, all orders will still follow the normal procurement process which includes requisitions and processing by the Division of Administration and Finance (Finance). Departments who have a multi-year refresh plan approved by the Vice-President for Information Technology and who are purchasing standard equipment will not have their decision to purchase held by Finance to evaluate the necessity of the purchase; rather, Finance will only verify the availability of funds. Units who do not have a documented refresh schedule should work with the DoIT and their local budgetary authority to prepare one.  

Exceptions to the Standards

Exceptions to the standard model are expected and allowed in many instances and the justification for these exceptions must first be approved by the local IT department and the local budgetary authority. The IT Planning Council will review exceptions annually to inform the selection of future equipment models and options.

More Information

For questions about how these new standards affect your department, please contact your local IT support person. For more global questions on the procurement or contracting process, please contact Procurement Services and Contract Management at 815-753-1671.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I order the standard model?

First, make sure you go through any internal process that your own unit may have in place for purchasing computer equipment. Then, assuming your unit has a multi-year refresh plan approved by the Vice President for Information Technology at NIU, your local IT person will simply go to the Dell Premier site, order the relevant desktop or laptop, and the transaction will process through Procurement. Procurement will not review your purchase for necessity, but will only validate that funds are available.

How do I prepare a multi-year refresh plan for computer purchases when my unit doesn't have the budget to purchase computer equipment except on an ad-hoc basis?

A refresh plan need not be identical for every unit nor does a refresh plan require an even amount of spending every year. The best replacement plan is a smooth spend. The worst plan is no plan at all. DoIT, for example, will spend down remaining reserves in 2016 and 2017 in order to smooth out our desktop refresh needs.

Other units may have the opposite of an immediate up front spend. For example, a plan may seek to spend nothing in the next two years and then make it up (or at least start to) in years 3-5; that is also a reasonable plan. IT professionals are expected to make a plan and present the recommendation to leadership so they can make an informed business decision that still meets minimal security standards.

In short, a reasonable plan must allow someone to deduce a unit’s current and future inventory and purport to refresh all desktops and laptops over a five-year timeline starting anytime in the next five years.

How do I submit the exception form?

Unfortunately, this is still a paper form until we implement more automated processes in Procurement. This paper form should accompany your purchase request for non-standard equipment. As a reminder, be sure to include signatures from your local budgetary authority and your local IT person.

What is a local budgetary authority?

The answer to this depends on your unit and how budgets and cost centers are managed. You may have an office who provides financial management that may be able to override your local unit’s decisions. On the other hand, your department chair or head may be the budgetary authority in your unit. The decision on who is a local budgetary authority must be made on a unit-by-unit basis.

Why does Finance still approve my purchases even when I have the money in my budget?

The best place to determine whether, when and what computer you need is at the point closest to where that computer will be used each day. However, Finance still has a valid and necessary role to ensure that expenditures made against cost centers have sufficient funds to make that purchase. Finance’s role is to validate the presence of funds, not your necessity for the equipment itself.

Back to top