Letter to Council: Award the Web Site Redesign Contract


I just sent the following message to the Mayor and City Council.

I support moving forward with the city web site redesign, and awarding the contract as proposed. (agenda item #38 for the March 26, 2009 regular council meeting)

The job of designing a new information architecture and migrating the current content is enormous, and beyond the capacity of CTM (at current staffing levels). Without expanded headcount, an outside contractor is necessary.

The bid process has identified a highly credible contractor for the project. Cignex Technologies has demonstrated a commitment to open source software, and deep expertise on the content management system (Plone) identified by the city.

The timing is right for this. The current down economy creates opportunities for significant projects such as this. Contractors are hungry. The city could realize better talent and lower costs by moving forward at this time.

A significant portion of this project would be funded by enterprise funds, thus mitigating the impact on the general revenues.

The web site redesign is part of a longstanding commitment from the City Council to the Austin voters to move forward on improved open government. I urge you to follow through on that commitment.


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Since you're the first that I saw mention it and you're recommending the council go ahead with the contract, I'm curious about your reaction to the uproar today over the contract going to a firm outside Austin?

I don't know that I feel strongly one way or the other. I also don't know anything about the bidding process. Yes, it would be nice to keep it local, but if there was an equal chance to bid and everything was clear, I don't have a problem with using someone non-local. I'm assuming the choice was made based on several trade-offs.

Re: Uproar

The evaluation process did include a preference for local firms. Given two bids of similar cost and quality, the selection process would have picked the local one. It turns out that the out-of-state bidder selected was graded higher in almost every evaluation category.

By the way, Kedron Touvell did some research and identified one Austin and another Houston sub-contractor that would be involved in significant pieces of the effort.

So while I'd prefer to see it go to a local, I'd be more interested in looking at why so few bids.

Omar G. has a pretty good piece in his blog that discusses the controversy:

Slashing through red tape!

I completely agree, it seems like something is wrong with the process to have so few businesses even bidding on it. That being said, did the city even give the local bidders adequate opportunity to counter? I just question why the huge disparity in cost between the out-of-state bidders from the locals wasn't examined more thoroughly and/or addressed by giving the local businesses an opportunity to counter.

I'm not so convinced your observation that the Austin and Houston sub-contractors will be involved in, "significant" pieces of the project is totally relevant though. That statement is technically true, however, it ignores the fact that the lion's share of this money still looks to be headed out-of-state. According to the CoA documentation, less than 30% of the funding for the entire project will go to an actual local company? This just looks bad for the City Council, someone has dropped the ball.


I guess I need to keep my ears closer to the pavement. I run a development company here in Austin that I am trying to build to help employ local Austin developers but did not have the opportunity to bid or even know it was available. I guarantee that we could have done it for a better price but alas. Now I know I need to have someone monitoring at all time the local state rfp's. This thing looks big to many but after doing global content management for companies like Schlumberger this does not look insurmountable and would have been great to have a chance at.

Best Regards,
Jason Johndrow - CEO
Ktomics, LLC.