The HESS Consortium and E&I Cooperative Services Partnership

Since we founded the HESS Consortium in 2015, we have grown quickly with a wide array of institutions that use various ERP systems.  While we have a great group of chief information officers and chief financial officers with various contract experience, our HESS board of directors has long felt the need for stronger experience in collaborative contract development, negotiations and management.  This experience is necessary for our members to get the best features and pricing possible while our software partners can be assured that all  collective terms and conditions for our various institutions are coordinated and met.  This need has been obvious to us from the beginning of our consortium and is why an affiliation partnership with E&I Cooperative Services is so valuable at this point.

E&I Cooperative Services is a non-profit, New York-based cooperative that was founded in 1934 and whose mission is focused squarely on collaborative higher education contracts.

With more than 5,000 member institutions, E&I has experience with highly complex contracts and has expertise in soliciting, awarding and managing these contracts for their members.  Your institution is most likely a member of E&I now.  The agreements are non-binding to members so HESS’s agreements will now be non-binding, departing from the original concept of the HESS Consortium.  

With the recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) between HESS and E&I (member login required), E&I’s contract management, led by Keith Fowlkes (HESS co-founder, board member and now E&I executive leadership), will now be working with our individual software partner cohorts to competitively develop, award and manage collaborative contracts for the member institutions in HESS.  This means that HESS members will now have access to competitively solicited contracts  from software providers.  Also, in support of our members and software providers, our institutions that are also E&I members will receive E&I contract support to adopt the contract agreements.  Contracts are between the software provider and E&I. Member institutions will be able to adopt these contracts.  While E&I’s services are provided at no cost to HESS member institutions, there is a small contract administration fee that each vendor will pay E&I based on that contract’s use.

E&I’s contract services also add great value for software providers by allowing them to reduce the overhead and time involved in individually negotiating contracts. HESS members that are also members of E&I have a single adopted contract agreement for all schools in the cohort (see section below "How does this new relationship help our software partners help us?").  All questions about the contracts and what they offer can be directed to E&I contract and technical support staff.  E&I makes our software providers’ operations more efficient and effective for your institutions. 

E&I also adds value to its software business partners by helping to develop and market these contracts, terms and conditions, regulatory restrictions and pricing with its larger public E&I members.

 

How does this new relationship help our software partners help us?

  1. E&I, in partnership with HESS cohorts and software providers, normally starts by developing a detailed RFP with a standard terms and conditions listing that satisfies institutions’ needs both functionally and legally.  E&I then markets that RFP publicly for vendor responses and, with our cohorts, selects one or more companies for award(s) based on the offerings (features, prices, options, etc.).
  2. An E&I/HESS agreement gives our partners one single master level agreement that those companies can then use for their RFP response(s) from any of the member schools.  Currently, those companies would have to individually respond to every RFP from individual schools.  That could be hundreds or thousands of responses, visits, demos and sales calls each year. 
  3. E&I provides support to answer questions about the contract details and walks the institution through the process of signing on to the contract and using the pricing and agreed-to terms and conditions.
  4. E&I also has a marketing communications team that promotes the contracts available to members. E&I’s member relations representatives put members in touch with the provider’s technical support team, often making the call with the vendor.
  5. E&I works with the HESS cohorts on any contractual issues and yearly negotiations related to agreement renewals and new products/pricing as a collective group.
  6. E&I collects a contract fee of between 1-3% of the contract activity from their business partners.  Subject to board approval, any “net profit” over and above E&I’s costs is dispersed yearly back to members based on their contract usage in the form of patronage payments.  
  7. Other E&I technology business partners (e.g., Xerox, , , CDWG, GovConnection and others), have indicated that this fee is small compared to the savings in time and expense involved in individually negotiating terms and conditions, pricing, annual maintenance and support and legal review with each individual institution.  Part of the realized savings by the software partner can then be passed on to member institutions.
  8. E&I works behind the scenes to update the contracts for industry and higher education regulatory changes, manage the contract terms and conditions (as needed) and work between the cohorts and their software providers on pricing and feature changes.

 

E&I Cooperative Services has been doing this since 1934 and the method has been proven to save members and suppliers time, money and frustration in their procurement processes and operations.  

 

The HESS Consortium Board of Directors strongly believes that this collaboration with E&I Cooperative Services will strengthen its contract agreements and make stronger the bonds between our member institutions and our software partners.  Starting March 24, 2017, the contract agreements that are developed will now be completely voluntary for HESS members. In the spirit and mission of the HESS Consortium, we do hope that our members will make their best effort to assist us in the successful negotiation of “best in breed” pricing and features in partnership with our software cohorts and use the contract agreements.

 

In closing, we are all in this together, our institutional members and our software providers.  We all need to be successful in serving our unique organizational missions.  We all need to more closely communicate our successes, challenges and best practices.  To see success in this new economy, we all must actively engage in collaboration to make sure that our organizations continue to survive and thrive. 

Let this be the year that we all truly make this commitment to each other to work together for the common good for all of our organizations!

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