The University of Texas at Austin

Current ITS Projects

Product Assessment and Selection Approach

Product selection is determined during the Solution Analysis phase. The ultimate purpose of the Solution Analysis Phase is to provide the university with a solution recommendation that will address the current and future needs of students, staff, and faculty. A solution can be a software application, software as a service (SaaS), a custom-built solution, consulting services, etc., or a combination of these. The approach suggested here provides an overview of the steps and procedures used to determine which solution set will best meet the needs of the university. The outcome of this process documents a solution recommendation. This methodology is not intended to provide detailed guidance for each step; it is intended to give the user an overview of the process and its steps. The methodology is accompanied by templates that teams can use and modify to document their findings and criteria.


  1. Identify Business Need: To replace the current solution or create a new solution, define the business need by gathering information from customers, staff, governance groups, and other stakeholders. The business need can be documented in the Project Charter and is used to describe the overall purpose and goals of the project.
  2. Determine Requirements: Document requirements for the solution and consider functional and technical requirements, application security, accessibility policies, implementation, integration, support models, and other needs. Requirements should be prioritized and categorized. Include show-stoppers, which are requirements that must be met for the solution to be successfully implemented; see the Requirements and Traceability template. Once requirements have been solicited, defined, and documented, they need to be approved by the appropriate authority, such as a customer steering committee or project sponsor.
  3. Identify Solution Options: Using benchmarks with other universities (including surveys and/or interviews), industry analysis, solutions in use on campus, and other research, identify potential solutions that may meet the requirements. Also, identify additional evaluation criteria, such as product cost, licensing, vendor SLAs, maintenance contract, and timeline for solution implementation. In addition, consider other campus services that need to be involved in evaluating the solution, such as the Information Security Office (ISO) for security and ITS for accessibility, authentication, infrastructure, and user support. In situations with a wide range or large number of potential solutions, use show-stoppers and high-priority requirements to narrow the options. At times, multiple products may need to be integrated for the overall solution. This information can be documented in the Research Summary. For a small number of options, take the "Research Summary and Results" section from the Research Summary and combine it with the Solution Evaluation Summary. To ensure you are following correct procurement processes and to understand the procurement timeline, contact Purchasing to give preliminary visibility.
  4. Create and Evaluate RFI/RFP/RFQ: To refine requirements and narrow the choices, the team may choose to release a Request for Information (RFI) first to determine what solutions and approaches are available. See the Purchasing RFI web page for details on the RFI process. Depending on the size and complexity of the solution, a Request for Proposal (RFP) / Request for Quotation (RFQ) may be needed to perform the final selection. As part of the development of the request, the team should define the evaluation process, including a core evaluation team, mandatory requirements, and scoring criteria. Scoring criteria should consider quality of response, cost, references, support options, etc. Purchasing should be involved throughout the development of the request to ensure compliance with university policies.
  5. Perform Technical Evaluation of Solutions: To evaluate options, use product demonstrations, vendor responses, solicited user input, product documentation, product trial versions, and industry reviews. Analyze solutions against requirements and determine which meet the requirements. Requirements evaluation may include consultation with other campus groups that can provide expertise in specific areas, such security, accessibility, authentication, infrastructure, and user support. Use the Solution Evaluation Summary to document the results. Review the recommendation and obtain required approvals.
  6. Perform Cost Evaluation of Solutions: To evaluate costs, develop cost estimates for implementation, on-going maintenance, and sustainment, or use the estimates from the vendor responses. Document these estimates in the Solution Evaluation Summary. The estimates should include:
    1. Application costs such as build/configuration, customization, conversion, interface implementation, and on-going maintenance. This should include an evaluation of the skills required for these efforts and the associated training or hiring costs for staff.
    2. Integration costs for changes and/or upgrades that would be required to on-campus systems that need to integrate with the proposed solution
    3. Licensing, including initial and on-going maintenance / subscription / support costs
    4. Hardware and operating system or hosting costs
    5. User support, help desk, sustainment, and documentation
    6. Training estimates for the product users, help desk, and support staff
    7. Training estimates for the product users, help desk, and support staff
    Consider the overall cost. Some products may have a low upfront cost but high maintenance or user training costs, while others may have a higher initial cost but lower maintenance and user support costs. Determine and execute the Best and Final Offer (BAFO) process if needed for cost evaluation.
  7. Make Recommendation: Using the evaluation criteria, determine the best solution for the university. Document the recommendation in the Solution Evaluation Summary. Review recommendation, and obtain approval by the appropriate authority, such as a customer steering committee or project sponsor.

Need more information? Contact the Methodology team at in ITS Applications.