Lance Bolton, senior IT director for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

As senior IT director for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Lance Bolton serves in a key leadership role working with faculty and staff on the selection of new computer systems and supporting those systems across the college.

And, when it comes to purchasing new equipment, Bolton and his colleagues are always looking for ways to get the most for their departments’ money.

When Debby Zumbach, interim assistant vice president for purchasing, approached the campus IT community with a cost savings idea as part of the UI's TIER initiative in fall of 2014, they were eager to test it out.

She asked whether it was feasible to make a commitment for a high-volume purchase of identical PCs to test whether that would result in per-unit savings.

The IT community responded, and the campus committed to purchasing 1,000 Dell PCs with the same configuration. By “buying in bulk,” the UI saved $84.25 per PC. So far, a total of 1,070 PCs have been purchased, with a total savings of $90,147.50.

John Watkins, who worked with campus IT staff to negotiate the agreement, says it marks an important initial step in reducing information technology costs at the institution.

“We already knew the pricing we were getting from Dell was better than what we had seen from any of our peers, so we were very pleased to get this amount of savings,” Watkins says. “We are able to save a significant amount of money without any real effect on individuals; we would have purchased these PCs anyway.”

With more than 13,000 Windows desktops on campus, the total savings could be near $550,000 over a four-to-five–year period. And that’s if only half of the desktops are able to be replaced with this standard computer when their useful life has ended.

“The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has spaced its annual computer refresh cycle for budgeting purposes, and I’m very pleased that this year, 86 percent fell into the standard configuration for our PC purchase,” Bolton says. “This high number speaks to the success of the negotiation—and more specifically to getting the most compute power for our dollars.” 

As part of the negotiations, the team was also able to save money by decoupling the computer monitor from the PC purchase itself.

“If a person has a good, efficient monitor already, there is no need to change it out when the computer itself needs to be replaced,” says Zumbach, adding that the university can save an additional $147 per PC by not purchasing new monitors when it’s unnecessary.

Because of this purchasing success, Zumbach says the university is now looking at a similar procurement strategy with computer peripherals and print management.