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Abstract: This case focuses on the Iowa State Legislature during the process of acquiring a $1 million computer system. The system was intended to handle bill processing, update the state's code of laws, and allow quick and efficient budget analysis. Part A highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems under consideration, and explicates the tight contract the winning bidder would have to sign. It allows the class to consider the risks and benefits the legislative leadership would face during acquisition, and to spark discussion of risk management throughout the purchase process. Part B is a brief outline of the period during which the legislature purchased the Sperry system, and discovered that its bill processing functions didn't work properly. It is designed to be handed out partway through class to further the discussion of risks, benefits, and risk management. Part C shows the compromise reached by the legislative leadership. It can be used to wrap up the discussion of risk and management, and to underscore how ineffective the tight contract was in accounting for those risks.
Learning Objective: The major lesson of the case is that seemingly technical decisions can have profound political and strategic implications.