Friday, August 3, 2012

How can I put a meeting "out to bid?"

At the University of Michigan if one wants to spend $5,000 to buy a small rack-mount server with a five-year service life one needs to put the request out for bid.  We then need to justify the vendor selected, and if we choose a bid which is NOT the lowest price, we have even more explaining to do.

It makes sense that the U-M would want to make sure that major purchases receive the right level of oversight and review.  One can argue if the $5,000 limit is the right number, but it seems like some number (maybe a higher number?) is the right one.

However, if one wants to schedule a one-hour recurring meeting with nine other people for a monthly meeting for five years (so 60 meetings total with 10 total people at each meeting), the only barrier is sending out the invitation and getting people to attend.  Now, of course, if one is a very senior-level person inviting direct reports or dotted-line reports, it is pretty easy to get people to attend.

Each meeting might cost around $500 in staff time; perhaps closer to $1000 if the people are senior (expensive) and we include benefits and any other hourly fees.  And so 60 such meetings will cost the U-M somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000 over the couse of five years.

So here's the question:  If the goal is to make sure that the U-M is spending its resources wisely, who's making sure that the resources spent on meeting are used wisely?

Meetings - not hardware, software, licenses, cloud computing, paper, printers, etc - are the biggest expense we have.

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