Home > Milwaukee County Politics, Politics, Technology > My Open Records Request Reveals a Shocking $2 Million Price Tag for State of Wisconsin Web Site

My Open Records Request Reveals a Shocking $2 Million Price Tag for State of Wisconsin Web Site

February 3rd, 2009 Dan Cody

In late December of 2008, the Journal Sentinel carried a somewhat frivolous story about the new Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS) web site developed for the Government Accountability Board (GAB) which had a picture of the Minneapolis skyline instead of the Madison skyline on it’s front page. It was a somewhat embarrassing snafu by caught by State Senator Jeff Plale of Milwaukee, summarily mocked, and everyone moved on.

However, after reading in the story that the CFIS web site had cost Wisconsin residents “nearly a million dollars” to build, I decided to dig a big deeper and found out that the company who ended up getting the CFIS contract, PCC Technology Group, resided in Connecticut. As someone who works in the tech industry and has several close friends and many acquaintances in the web development industry, I expressed concern that 1.) such a large amount of money was spent on a web site with what appeared to be very limited functionality and 2.) that a firm outside of Wisconsin had been chosen to do the work, despite a large number of qualified local firms.

So in early January I filed an open records request with the GAB to find out the details of the Request for Proposals (RFP) the GAB put out and just how they came to chose the eventual winner of the contact for the CFIS, PCC Technology Group of Connecticut. In late January I received a response to my open records request from the GAB and was surprised to find that the total cost of the CFIS web site – again, a site that myself and other industry experts have pointed out is limited in functionality and complexity – wasn’t $1 million as originally reported in the original Journal Sentinel article, but double that!

A $2 million price tag for the web site that first gained attention because it had a picture of the wrong city’s skyline.

To say $2 million is a ridiculous price for a web site that has less functionality than my weblog is an understatement. After spending a considerable amount of time going over the documents I got from the GAB in response to my open records request, it became clear to me that PCC Technology Group was, to put it mildly, fleecing the people of Wisconsin.

Below are some results from my analysis of the winning RFP response PCC Technology Group submitted, followed by some closing thoughts about this project, it’s costs, and some recommendations to avoid situations like this in the future.

PCC Technology Group’s Winning RFP Response

An abbreviated explanation of how a State agency picks a “winner” from all the RFP responses it gets from interested parties: The RFP has criteria that each of the companies respond to in their RFP response. Each of those criteria are grouped into categories in which a certain number of points is assigned. For example, the “Technical requirements” might have a total maximum value of 100 points. For every RFP response, all of the criteria in each category are given a point score out of that maximum by a group of anonymous evaluators. You then average the scores of the evaluators for each question or category, add the average scores up, and the RFP response with the most points wins the contract.

I’ll be posting all the documents I received shortly, but here are some of the more interesting things I discovered.

As I looked through the documents I received, the first thing I discovered was that only 2 vendors RFP responses were scored. Of all the points awarded to the winner (8,570 out of 10,000), the majority of those came from having the lowest cost, which they received 100%, or 2000, of the points possible because there were only two bidders. Even though the proposal from PCC TG was the “lowest” at just over $2 million it scored the maximum number of points possible for it’s cost proposal. Here’s a screenshot of how the two vendors scored:

Where PCC really won the bid was on it’s points awarded for “Business System Requirements” where it got twice as many points as the only other vendor that responded. I was not able to get the RFP response from the other vendor so I can’t comment on how good or bad their response was and if the number of points they were awarded for that section seemed fair, but in this section PCC basically submitted a snapshot of their project plan.

That snapshot is where you get a good idea of why this web site would cost the State of Wisconsin $2 million. In the snapshot of the project plan, PCC explains how much time/resources it will take to accomplish each of it’s deliverables. For example, PCC plans on 120 hours to write the project plan itself and develop a kickoff agenda. That’s three full weeks at 40 hours/week to develop the project plan and write an agenda for a single meeting. Planning takes time, but three entire weeks?

Another three weeks, 15 full days, to give the website the ability to download reports as a Microsoft Word document. Four weeks, 20 full days of development time at who knows what hourly rate, to upload Microsoft Word documents. That’s the one thing missing by the way: the billable rate for PCC Technology Groups employees. They simply charged Wisconsin a flat rate.

Incredible considering I was able to find the code to accomplish the same task in three minutes for free on this web development site. Yet we were charged at least several thousand dollars for the same thing by PCC Technology Group.

Folks, that is seven full weeks – 35 days! – of billable time so Microsoft Word documents, perhaps the most common format in the business world, could be uploaded and downloaded when I found the code for free on the web in three minutes. Incredible.

While the developers of the web site would be spending their time on uploading and download MS Word documents, the “project manager” for this web site would be busy too. PCC Technology Group’s own project plan has 1900 hours built in to the cost of the web site for “project management”, the deliverables of which are listed as “weekly status reports”, “Meeting minutes”, “monthly steering committee meetings” and “monthly risk and issue analysis report”. Nineteen hundred (1900) hours – two hundred and forty days worth of eight hours days – billed to the taxpayers of Wisconsin for status reports and meeting minutes?!

While there are many more examples in the project plan proposed by PCC Technology Group of this kind of billable time padding, it’s certainly the most egregious.

Closing Thoughts

For a web site with a very clear and defined set of functionality – which isn’t terribly complex by modern web standards and as I’ve pointed out numerous times is less complex than this very weblog – the vast majority of the TWO MILLION DOLLAR price tag for this site went not for the development of the site itself, but to pay for things like over inflated project management costs. The actual software – which as numerous web development professionals who’ve analyzed the CFIS web site have said is nothing more than auto-generated template code – for the CFIS web site was 1/7th the total cost of the $2 million dollar bid from PCC Technology Group.

While every good product has some component of project management involved, the relatively low complexity of this web site in no way justifies the vast amount of resources proposed by PCC, and accepted by the GAB, for something as nebulous as “project management”. But it’s a heck of a way to make a lot of money off a web site that otherwise would run 1/10th the cost.

And that’s the real problem I see here: an apparent lack of oversight by anyone with a modicum of industry experience who would have called the proposal for the CFIS web site from PCC Technology Group for the outrageously expensive fleecing it is.

I can’t help but think that one of the reasons a company from Connecticut was eventually chosen was the desire to keep that fact as far away from Wisconsin as possible. After all, what company here in Wisconsin wouldn’t be called out by it’s local peers in the industry if it were pulling the same thing?

And that is the second point I’d like everyone – especially decision makers – to take away from this. Keeping work like this with any of the well qualified web development firms in Wisconsin not only creates good high tech jobs and spurs our local economy, it also makes it less likely that the State will end up over paying for something as relatively simple as the CFIS web site. While nothing can be done to rectify the amount of money we needlessly spent on the relatively simply CFIS web site, it can serve as an important lesson for future State projects, especially related to the Internet.

To those of you reading this who are concerned as I am about the amount of money this web site cost Wisconsin residents and have the power to do something about it, there needs to be some serious discussion about how we provide proper oversight on future projects that was so desperately lacking in this one.

  • Total amount awarded to to PCC Technology Group for CFIS web site: $1.8 million
  • Grand Total Cost of Campaign Finance Information System (http://cfis.wi.gov): $2,002,806
  • People who would be outraged at cost of CFIS web site if PCC Tech. Group hadn’t incorrectly used a skyline image of Minneapolis instead of Madison: 0
  • Number of other State web sites for which Wisconsin has severely overpaid: unknown
  1. Dan/NV
    February 3rd, 2009 at 14:13 | #1

    Excellent job, Dan. All I can do is shake my head, and I know nothing about IT. Thanks for the explanations.

  2. LaFay
    February 3rd, 2009 at 15:47 | #2

    Can you imagine the amount of slop not uncovered yet buried in budgets throughout? Great work.
    Now hiow can we send this to every state director, and every legislator.
    For 8 months, Ive got to work contractullay inside a WIS agency, fairly large. There is so much slop and waste, it would go bankrupt if it was for profit organization.
    I recomend immediately, a review of all spending habits of non-qualified state directors who have 15 years or more in their job. They are the worst slop due to a stuck in 1970′s mentality, and lack of anything currently real in ongoing business circles.

  3. February 3rd, 2009 at 16:33 | #3

    Dan, this looks awesome and I will definitely be reading it more thoroughly tonight. However, I was surprised to see this:

    “it became clear to me that PCC Technology Group was, to put it mildly, fleecing the people of Wisconsin.”

    Why do you blame PCC Technology Group? This was a competitively bid proposal. If PCC Tech Group won the bid and someone would have done an worthy job for cheaper, how is that anyone’s fault but your state government? It sounds to me that either we don’t fully understand the complexities (there is often much more than meets the eye with government IT systems) or it’s a case of good ol’ government ass-covering and/or corruption.

    I don’t really agree with blaming the vendor for their cost proposal. I can propose to do this system for $70 billion, and that’s just me being stupid… unless the client accepts it, in which case that’s them being stupid/corrupt.

  4. Brian
    February 3rd, 2009 at 16:48 | #4

    Now that you have figured out that fraud and waste do exist in government now maybe you can figure out why many do not want our taxes raised. Gov’t has enough money, it simply pisses it away.

  5. Vic
    February 3rd, 2009 at 17:25 | #5

    There are just a couple things.

    If any of you are assuming that this same kinda crap does not go in every business across America, you are wrong. These kinds of crappy decisions are made by CEOs everyday. We just are stuck with the government we have.

    The other thing is why in the world would any qualified individual go to work for the government with the kind of railing you guys are doing in this blog.

    So we have a problem. On the one hand we need quality services from our government. On the other hand we have very little chance of getting anyone qualified to make a good decision to work for government.

  6. February 3rd, 2009 at 21:03 | #6

    Just f’ing stunning. Great work to run this to the ground. Yes, there is clearly an oversight issue, but someone sd also raise the business ethics issue. This vendor has clearly taken advantage.

    rico!

  7. patrick
    February 3rd, 2009 at 22:41 | #7

    considering how often I disagree with you–I have to honestly say you’ve done great work here and helped to expose some very sloppy work on the part of those responsible for making the contract. Well done. This deserves credit–but more importantly, I hope it provokes change.

  8. February 3rd, 2009 at 22:44 | #8

    Dan,

    Sorry, but I have serious beef with your analysis here. I understand where you’re coming from, because I would have done the same ‘wtf’ analysis 2.5 years ago, before I started working on large state government projects.

    2.5 years ago I would have said: why does it take 120 hours (that’s not 3 weeks of time by the way; that’s 120 man-hours) to create a kickoff meeting agenda?

    The kickoff deck is not an ‘agenda’. It is an approach, timeline, and initial scope setting discussion. You could easily make an argument for it being the most important document, because it anchors the rest of the project.

    2.5 years ago I would have asked why they couldn’t just use freely available code I just found on the Web?

    Most (not all) state governments are not at all on board with open source or free-to-use code. They want the vendor’s ass on the line for reliability and every other aspect of success. Why? Because otherwise it’s THEIR ass on the line. If shit goes south, the agency is going to blame the vendor. Ok, that’s step 1. Given that, vendor companies generally are not on board with pulling random code of the web either. It needs to be designed, developed, and tested like everything else. They don’t like the idea of outsourcing development to anonymous developers when it’s their (the vendor’s) ass on the line from a PR and legal perspective.

    But, that’s kind of a BS reason. The REAL reason is that the code you found on the web doesn’t conform to whatever bass-ackwards standard enterprise library your friendly state government has adopted in order to facilitate interoperability and whatever other bullshit some other vendor got the state to buy into at some time in the distant past (at a hefty price tag, of course). The code you found is great when you’re just building a blog. The chance that it will be permissible in the state agency’s enterprise architecture is next to nil.

    Example: I am currently designing a large solution that must use the state’s standard enterprise architecture. In order to process an XML document received from a web service and persist it to an Oracle database involves about 20 classes at 4 different layers of abstraction.

    Rule of thumb: your state government’s IT architecture is as cludgy, bloated, and “bureaucratic” as your state government is.

    You found some great evidence, but you are interpreting it completely wrong. This was a competitively bid project. Unless the fix was in, then your state government selected what it thought was the best proposal. Even you note that cost was a heavily weighted factor. (The questions around why only 2 vendors were scored are good, but our answers are just speculation. There could be very good reasons why.) So what this leaves are questions around WHY it costs so much to do something that should be simple. The answer to this has to do with how difficult it is to do anything when working with a government agency.

    Again, I’m not talking out of my rear here; it has been my life for over 2.5 years, working on a projects 4-7 times the budget size of this one.

    The hard questions need to be directed at the government agency. And I sure hope someone in the public asks them, because these guys don’t listen to us when we question the value of their “enterprise standards” (they just think we’re complaining about what we have to put up with in order to work with them… which we are).

  9. February 4th, 2009 at 07:11 | #9

    mwarden, all of what you said might make sense if indeed the State overseers on this project had made those sort of technical demands. But have we seen any evidence of that? Your presumptions are hypothetical util shown otherwise. Those requirements should’ve been in the RFP. Of course, in the real world, they’re sometimes not and the vendor deals with it. On the other hand, sometimes the vendor can create and host the project.

    There are other examples of other State sites that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

    I also agree with Vic that this sort of stupidity happens inside private companies, too. We just don’t hear about it unless we’re actually hanging around that particular water-cooler.

    In terms of journalism, it’s time for the “who” and the “why”. Find the managers who made these decisions, and hold their feet to the fire.

  10. February 4th, 2009 at 08:25 | #10

    Thanks for all the comments so far everyone.. Let me respond to a few folks and make a few larger points as well.

    The one thing that still doesn’t add up for me is why only 2 companies, both over 2 million in cost, were evaluated. When I say I think it was PCC that “fleeced” Wisconsin taxpayers, that’s because at the end of the day they’re the ones with $2 million in pocket for a very modest web site.

    And that leads to the final point I made in the original post. I very much believe that there needs to be some kind of technical audit process in place that would catch some of these ridiculous expenditures for relatively simply technical solutions. They wouldn’t have final say in anything, but a group to at least provide a quick, “This makes sense” or “Seriously? Two million for a web site” kind of statement to avoid this kind of situation.

    I not about to say the GAB is just another overfunded state agency because I don’t know what went on behind the scenes here. As someone pointed out, this kind of thing happens all the time in the private and public sector. The difference is we have the ability as citizens to find out how this happened, who’s responsible, and demand better accountability so next time a massive chunk of money can be put to better use.

    As many you know, I work for the State as well and have to deal with this stuff all the time, so I know that certain agencies just don’t have the ability to call BS when some company floats a proposal for a web site across their desk with a $2 million price tag.

    As for next steps I’d like to get this out there to perhaps prevent something similar happening in the future. Unfortunately, we sometimes spend more time caring about “gotcha” stories involving $400 hotel rooms in Washington D.C. and not the $2 million going to waste in Madison.

  11. James
    February 4th, 2009 at 09:09 | #11

    Has anyone from the media contacted you yet about this? You’d think there would be some outrage about several million dollars being spent on a web site.

  12. LaFay
    February 4th, 2009 at 09:22 | #12

    The truth is that the point system you outlines is a tool for low level managers and directors to spend taxpayers moneys. Its used all the time to bypass cumbersome processes and forward moneys to a select few who a son in law works for, or family member. More common than all realize.
    Competitive bidding is a joke. I have a copy of a 26 page 390K report from a consultant paid for by Wisconsin taxpayers. Its because the director in that slot with 22 years of state Experience has no clue what he is doing and needs all this outside advise. This is how Wisconsin operates do many years of protectionist jobs to get votes. So the circle is that elected officials love to get votes from organized folks with 17 years at 3 agencies now spending large amounts of tax payers moneys without any formal training, education, or common sense with how to dothat properly. So a 2 MM website gets born.

  13. February 4th, 2009 at 09:44 | #13

    @John:
    “all of what you said might make sense if indeed the State overseers on this project had made those sort of technical demands.”

    This technical requirement is coded something along the lines of “Your solution must adhere to enterprise standards and integrate with existing technologies.” I would have to see the RFP response, but it’s not speculation — it’s definitely there somewhere.

    “On the other hand, sometimes the vendor can create and host the project.”

    That’s not realistic in public sector.

    @Dan:
    “The one thing that still doesn’t add up for me is why only 2 companies, both over 2 million in cost, were evaluated.”

    This is a valid question that should be asked.

    “When I say I think it was PCC that “fleeced” Wisconsin taxpayers, that’s because at the end of the day they’re the ones with $2 million in pocket for a very modest web site.”

    They submitted a cost proposal and it was accepted. If they bid too high, they will not get accepted. If they bid too low, they will not be profitable. They are constrained by the market conditions, if your state government is doing its job. If you don’t believe $2 million is proper, then the only possible conclusion is that your state government isn’t doing its job. It doesn’t make any sense to put blame on the vendor.

    “As someone pointed out, this kind of thing happens all the time in the private and public sector.”

    This is true to some extent, and it’s no coincidence that we only deal with government agencies and large corporations. They have similar problems of bureaucracy, communication, “enterprise standards”, etc. The problem is that when large corporations spend too much on a project, they are less profitable and growth slows. When a government agency spends too much on a project, they get a bigger budget next year.

  14. February 4th, 2009 at 10:12 | #14

    mwarden, I bet Dan has the RFP somewhere, and perhaps we can look it over. I bet a doughnut this web wasn’t spec’d to dynamically interconnect with any other State database. I bet it’s sitting on its own Windows server somewhere. You’re right, though, it is presently hosted within the State’s IP range. I’m a little surprised the $2 M didn’t include hosting and a morning backrub. :-)

    Along with the managers, deeper journalism would investigate the requirements (if any) to get this sort of IT project approved. You’d think it would need to pass a sanity check by an IT engineer and not just GAB managers.

  15. February 4th, 2009 at 10:17 | #15

    @John,

    Generally there is an architecture review board of some sort that needs to give the thumbs up on the technical aspect of it, but it’s not the IT engineers who are responsible for the budget.

    I would be interested in seeing the RFP response from PCC, but I am not sure what the terms are when someone makes an information request (is it then public information?).

    If there is an integration component, that’s where the cost increase is coming from.

  16. Marilee
    February 4th, 2009 at 14:53 | #16

    I would be very interested in seeing comparisons on what other government internet sites have cost us taxpayers, e.g. State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, City of Madison, etc. which are far more complex and functional I would bet. If only two vendors submitted RFP’s, I’d certainly do a re-do. I would also like to know who sat in on the evaluation committee. I would hope someone with IT experience but if they did, why wasn’t any of this questioned? Something is fishy and is worthy of further investigation. For example, who owns PCC Technology and could there be a connection. Can you say scandal?

  17. February 4th, 2009 at 17:54 | #17

    Operating costs in Connecticut must be very high :)

  18. February 5th, 2009 at 08:38 | #18

    Hey, I’ve designed a number of web sites. I’ll do the job for half: $1 million! Can’t beat that savings! And I’ll even do it so you can actually use it like web sites should be used.

    But as well, follow the money. Who did they give campaign contributions to? Wth our moneyed political system a lot of stupid things can get done.

    Jack Lohman
    http://MoneyedPoliticians.net

  19. February 5th, 2009 at 12:04 | #19

    You make valid points, but your argument is weakened by the “I found code online for free in 3 minutes that does the same thing” silliness.

    That’s at typical comment made by upper management (It’s just a web site, by cousin’s kid can do them…how hard can it be?)…not someone that knows IT.

    I’m sure a lot of money was wasted on this project. At the same time, I’m sure that bit of free code likely wouldn’t have met any of the specifics of the full business requirement document.

    It does boggle the mind that they’d outsources this beyond state borders, though.

  20. February 5th, 2009 at 22:44 | #20

    Darrel,

    The point about the code was to highlight the absurdity of building in 120 hours of time to create something of which the building blocks are easily available.

    I know IT by the way, and that’s why I can say that 3 full weeks of development time for a plugin to an ASP.net application to allow MS Word uploads is wasteful proposal padding at best.

  21. treasurer
    February 6th, 2009 at 09:33 | #21

    I just want to add that as a treasurer, who has to use this system, it doesn’t work. When you enter a contributor’s name, you sit and wait while it says “loading” and have time to go make a sandwich before it finally gives you nothing, times out during its own search, or gives you five choices of the same contributor with eroneous information and won’t let you correct it. Our last report is on the site and has numbers I can’t even imagine where they got. Lastly, I am required to hit a button stating that I believe the information to be correct to the best of my knowledge. Here I am left asking myself, do I violate the law and not submit this in time or do I lie. Neither really works for me. I did submit a written report with handwritten corrections. I resisted the urge to write them in crayon.

  22. Mortimer
    February 6th, 2009 at 10:20 | #22

    Everytime the state of Wisconsin outsources a major project of any sort, bad things happen, including over-billing.

    It is time for state politicians to realize that it is so much better to recruit and add technology expertise to the state as needed. If they do have small, quick projects that they need outsourced, do as Dan suggests, use WISCONSIN based consultants to do the work, but only as a last resort.

  23. February 6th, 2009 at 10:31 | #23

    Mortimer, you and Dan are 100% correct. Problem is, state employers can’t give campaign contributions but privatized emploers can. Until we have public funding of campaigns (rather than from the fat cats), it is what it is.

    Jack Lohman
    http://MoneyedPoliticians.net
    http://www.WiCleanElections.org

  24. February 6th, 2009 at 13:49 | #24

    Mortimer, your solution to avoid overspending and mismanagement is to have the government do it in-house? How does that make any sense, since the government is the entity that selected this vendor and their proposal?

    I think Dan made a comment saying that this organization has like 6 people. You want them to build out a 10 member full time IT staff that will live on beyond the project just to build this one project? Do these 10 employees have experience implementing this exact system in another state? If you’re saying they should hire Wisconsin citizens (which I assume you are), then the chances they have any experience implementing this system is next to nil. You’ve just skyrocketed the risk related to this project, yet we’re complaining that this current system doesn’t work that well!

    How will the government cover its ass without a vendor to blame and a warranty to rely on?

    Run the numbers. It’s cheaper for them to outsource the project. And it’s cheaper to allow competition across state lines. The complaints that this project is too expensive but also they should have restricted the competition to Wisconsin-only is a bit contradictory.

    Again, I feel like it’s easy to take a bunch of shots based on the facts sitting on the surface, but if you actually think things all the way through, as far as I’m concerned your state agency did this one right.

    (By the way, all those complaints about the current system not working — PCC has to fix it for free based on the terms negotiated!)

  25. February 6th, 2009 at 14:11 | #25

    mwarden, this is not a temporary 6 or 10 man job… it is a continuous update job for 2-3 people max. And there are plenty of qualified people in Wisconsin that would fill the need. Do you work for the contracted company?

  26. February 9th, 2009 at 01:57 | #26

    Jack, I suggest you actually read the RFP response. Your characterization does not match reality. As for restricting the RFP to Wisconsin contractors, no one ever said this was a bad idea; the only thing that was said is that this will decrease competition in the bidding process and lead to a more expensive project overall. But it is Wisconsin’s right to decide how to spend their money, and if they are willing to spend extra to keep the money in their local economy, I don’t see any problem with that. I do see a problem with people throwing things out there like “this should be open to only Wisconsin-based companies” without considering the cost and quality consequences.

    But if you acknowledge the consequences and still think it’s a good idea, then I’d be 100% on board with that (you know, a cost-benefit analysis rather than just a benefit analysis, the latter of which seems to be favored by most modern voters).

  27. February 9th, 2009 at 05:35 | #27

    If you look at outsourcing, we haven’t done that very well either. Remember the voter database? Also, when you are doing your cost-benefit analysis, make sure you compensate in the event we put Wisconsinites out of a job and onto unemployment/food stamps.

    But also, add a requirement that whatever company gets the busi ness, their exectives or their wives are not campaign contributors.

  28. February 9th, 2009 at 09:04 | #28

    Jack, absolutely you must account for those things. That’s exactly what I was referring to when I said “cost-benefit analysis.” It would be a little hypocritical for criticize the benefit-only analysis and then advocate a cost-only analysis. Good luck.

  29. nz
    February 22nd, 2009 at 10:18 | #29

    @mwarden — have you read the RFP and subsequent technical specifications doc? I’d be really curious to see. Short of this project needing to integrate, as you mention, into a technical jungle of XML and Microsoft sloppiness, I can not think of a single reason for this project to have ballooned to 20x what it should have cost.

    And based on how thorough (and for $2 million, it should have been extremely well documented), there is a very good chance that the change treasurer is talking about are out-of-scope and will cost additional dollars to correct. As a matter of fact, treasurer seems to be talking about functionality that is counter-intuitive, not broken. These are items that are specifically detailed in various project documents (or should be) and why, as Dan points out, there needs to be some serious technical oversight that includes full rounds of user testing. I can’t imagine charging this much for *any* site with such poorly thought-out user experience. Form fields overlap, labels float no where near the field they title. It’s really almost comical.

    Finally, you are kidding yourself if you don’t think this project contains code stripped from other places — and that is not a bad thing. It could have been vetted for years, and further, testing this code moving forward would have provided the same level of assurance as custom code written from scratch.

  30. February 22nd, 2009 at 12:16 | #30

    @nz: please refer to my breakdown of the items in the RFP that contribute to the cost: http://dancody.org/archives/gab-web-site-rfp-documents-online.html

    I realize this price tag doesn’t fit your gut feeling for how much a site should cost, but that’s largely bcause we are not talking about the cost of “a site”. Referto my other comment for further detail.

    in the end, I am just trying to provide some insight based on working with state governments on large projects similar (but larger scale) to this one for years. If you believe your intuition trumps that, I don’t have a problem with you rejcting my insight. But I think it would be hard to disagree with what I have laid out AND be able to explain why a competitively bid project resulted in that price tag. Your only possible bailout would be “corruption”, in which case I would advise you to hit the media circuit t expose the favoritism at the tax payers expense.

    but the is a more simple explanation for why the price ta is so high: that’s what it costs. That’s less exciting, though, so I guess you can take it or leave it.

  31. March 30th, 2009 at 08:47 | #31

    The issue with state contracts isn’t a matter of cost … a number of comments touch on the real issue, but don’t flat out state why this particular company was chosen.

    In Georgia, landing a state project is akin to winning the lottery. It’s nearly impossible. No matter how qualified a local vendor may be.

    Nine times out of ten, the selected vendor has already been chosen prior to offering the project to the bidding public. In many cases, the selected vendor actually helped write the submission guidelines including requirements so minutely specific that only ONE company could possibly fit the criteria – themselves. The bidding process is nothing more than a side-show to “prove” that state agencies are actually giving an equal chance to all potential vendors.

    What I am getting at is that state contracts are not awarded to the best vendor or even the best local vendor. They are not outsourced to out-of-state vendors to “keep costs down” (this is ridiculous). They are not outsourced to “proven” firms with long “track records” of dealing with out-dated and bloated technology infrastructures (this would make too much sense).

    Political nepotism. Contracts are awarded for favors, campaign contributions, or to friends of someone in office. It’s that simple. Learn who the owner of the company knows in the Wisconsin government and you will learn the answer behind the $2 mil contract.

  32. March 30th, 2009 at 09:08 | #32

    Paul, some of what you say is true. Vendors are often asked to help write the RFP itself, because vendors are more experienced with RFPs than individual government departments are. While it is true that obviously the vendor has a conflict of interest and will attempt to influence the RFP in such a way that the vendor will be able to respond favorable, you exaggerate too much when you say the vendor creates an RFP that only it can respond to. Did you look at this RFP? Would you care to point out what requirements make it an automatic win for PCC? Did PCC even work on the RFP?

    Even when the vendor is authoring the RFP, the state has the say over its content and the requirements. The state contacted the vendor to write the RFP for a specific reason and the state already had an idea of the system in mind. The state is not going to suddenly change their mind about anything important. What can and does happen is the vendor convincing the state that they need extra project communication methods or warranty or some other non-essential thing that is one of the things that vendor offers, but not every other vendor does. This is not malicious. The vendor offers it because the vendor thinks it provides value.

    > They are not outsourced to out-of-state vendors
    > to “keep costs down” (this is ridiculous).

    You provide no evidence to back this up. What other responder to the RFP provided the needed functionality at a lower cost? If the state wanted to give the project to a crony, how could it possibly keep another firm from submitting a more attractive proposal? And once they did submit a more attractive proposal, how could they justify still giving the project to their buddy?

    There is a lot of corruption in government, but your the stuff you’re saying here is off-base.

    > The bidding process is nothing more than a
    > side-show to “prove” that state agencies are
    > actually giving an equal chance to all
    > potential vendors.

    This is mostly true. It’s the same for most government proceedings. No one is deciding whether or not to vote on a bill based on the oral arguments on the House floor, for example. That’s for show, as are the committee hearings with various people testifying, etc.

    But what you don’t have quite right is that it is not the government giving the contract to their “friend”. The client will have existing work relationships based on previous projects with particular vendors. These things do not happen in a vacuum. Have they worked with PCC before on a successful project? Or perhaps they’ve worked with PCC’s owner before on a successful project? The public says that should not be factored in, even though it is probably one of the biggest indicators that this project will be successful.

    If you are hiring for a job, you don’t really evaluate everyone the same. If you have worked with someone in the past and they were successful, you will hire them over some stranger with a Word doc of his experience.

    As for your comments saying it has nothing to do with “track records”, that is unlikely. Most likely, PCC transferred much of this software from another state. We do it all the time, and the states generally ask us to do that in order to reduce their risk and cover their ass. They want to be able to say they are implementing the system that has been working in State X for the last 2 years.

    The RFP process has more do to with CYA than anything malicious, and that’s where you’re not quite accurate.

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