Technology procurement – more than meets the eye – Thomas Trappler’s 40-year career at UC

By Laurel Skurko. Thomas Trappler, who recently retired from his position as associate director of Information Technology Strategic Sourcing, provides 40 years of insight into the field of procurement. He and his small team of three manages some of the university’s most important IT partnerships. Trappler was honored by the UC Technology community, receiving a UC Tech Program Yvonne Tevis UC Wide Collaboration golden award alongside his Colleague David Willson last month. The UC IT Blog Team had the opportunity to interview Trappler and learn more about his contributions. 

Trappler’s early career in UCLA in administration

Trappler started his career with a bachelors from UCLA as a Washington DC transfer student. Upon graduation in 1986, Trappler began a career in business administration at UCLA where he worked his way up to the Office of Information Technology’s Chief Financial and Administrative Officer before transitioning to become UCLA’s Director of Software Licensing. These roles prepared him for a career in enterprise-wide IT strategic sourcing and supplier management and helped him discover his passion today. In November 2014, he moved from his UCLA role to a UC Systemwide role as a Senior Commodity Manager in UC Procurement Services, and subsequently moved to his most recent role, Associate Director of Information Technology Strategic Sourcing, in October 2016.

IT contracts – among the biggest names in technology today, including Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and Zoom

Trappler’s history in negotiating IT contracts mirrors the history of the industry itself with the past 40 years representing a period of enormous change. Trappler negotiated system wide contracts for the University of California with Microsoft 13 years ago and Amazon Web Services 10 years ago. Trappler was also a forerunner in negotiating a university-wide contract with Zoom seven years ago. These examples provide insight into factors key to successful IT strategic sourcing overall. Trappler explains what lies at the core of successful strategic sourcing – collaboration.  He says, “My journey has been influenced by a strong interest in facilitating collaboration among UC units with common needs, bringing those teams together to create leverage, and then using that to negotiate with IT suppliers to reduce cost, mitigate risk, and optimize value for the University.”

The contract Trappler negotiated with Zoom provides a clear example of the value expert negotiation brings the university, including expertise and a rigorous approach to understanding his clients’ needs. Trappler brought both a deep understanding of the video conferencing market and clarity regarding the needs of his UC customers to the negotiations. This rigorous preparation provided Trappler with the foresight needed to position the university far ahead of its peers. Trappler explained, “When I was negotiating the UC-wide Zoom agreement, I included some extra options that no one really had asked for, including campuswide site license pricing, as opposed to just buying individual seats.” It was clear that this turned out to be phenomenally prescient, because when COVID started, UC campuses had the flexibility they needed to expand their use of Zoom immediately and to open their doors virtually to students and staff. Trappler’s ability to identify the value of new players to a sector, like Zoom, and get agreement across the system quickly, provided remarkable advantages to the University of California during the pandemic, over the last 40 years, and promises to provide benefits in the decades to come.

Skills that enabled Trappler’s success – understanding his customers’ needs and “translating” to ensure alignment

The size and scale of Trappler’s world is vast. While he does not publicly discuss the size of the contracts he negotiates, he alludes to the savings that the group rates provide the university, measuring in the order of $60M/year for the past six years. He says that his success stems from a focus on respecting the needs of the different parties involved in the process, “seeking first to understand,” as Stephen Covey puts it. From there, he says that he works to ensure alignment by taking on the role of “connector and a translator” between groups such as Procurement, IT, and business process owners. He explains, “Everything is ultimately about people, treating everyone respectfully, and seeking to understand their needs, while focusing on building and maintaining trust-based relationships with partners and clients at all levels of the organization.

What’s next – AI must be managed with care

Trappler believes Artificial Intelligence (AI) will present the next wave of IT strategic sourcing challenges, with unique risks to mitigate. Specifically, he identifies the appropriate use of AI outputs as an area that will be to be addressed. 

Outside work 

Outside of work, Trappler spends time with his family and enjoys traveling. He considers himself fortunate to live in Santa Barbara where he loves to be in nature, hiking and taking walks on the beach, and enjoying all the region has to offer. 

Recommended resources

  1. UC Systemwide IT Contracts – For those interested in UC systemwide IT strategic sourcing agreements
  2. UC IT Sourcing Committee Project Intake Form – For those who would like to propose new UC-wide IT strategic sourcing projects
  3. UC Systemwide Procurement Org Chart – Provides context for procurement at the university via reporting structure
  4. “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey and Covey’s Time Management Matrix – Trappler referenced this author in regard to management techniques
  5. IT Sourcing Committee and IT Strategic Sourcing Center of Excellence – To learn more about the UC Tech Award received by Trappler and his colleague David Willson 
  6. IT Strategic Sourcing Center of Excellence website  
  7. IT Sourcing Committee website 

About Thomas Trappler

Thomas Trappler biography (source: EDUCAUSE)

As the Associate Director, IT Strategic Sourcing for the University of California system, Thomas Trappler leads enterprise wide IT procurement and supplier management initiatives and negotiations focused on cost reduction and risk mitigation. The UC IT Strategic Sourcing team has won both the EPIC Team Innovation Award and CHEC Focus On Efficiency Award. Thomas is the immediate past Co-Chair of the EDUCAUSE IT Procurement and Supplier Management Community Group. An internationally recognized expert in cloud computing risk mitigation via contract negotiation and supplier management, Thomas was named a “Cloud Luminary” by CA Technologies alongside such distinguished thought leaders as Vivek Kundra and Nicholas Carr. Per the Los Angeles Times, “When Thomas Trappler talks clouds, companies listen.” Dubbed the “Cloud Contract Adviser” by Computerworld, Thomas has presented at numerous events, including Cloud Expo, Gartner Catalyst, Educause Annual Conference, Security Threats Conference, IT Sourcing and Procurement Summit, CA World, The Business of Cloud Computing Conference, and the Security Professionals Conference. He has written a monthly column for Computerworld regarding cloud computing contracts, co-authored the book “Contracting for Cloud Services”, and has published articles on cloud contracting and open source software for Educause Quarterly. Thomas has lectured at UCLA and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and teaches “Cloud Computing Risk Mitigation Via Contract Negotiation & Supplier Management”, the original seminar focused on cloud computing contract issues.


Thomas Trappler
Associate Director, IT Strategic Sourcing, UC Procurement
UC Office of the President


Laurel Skurko, Marketing & Communications, IT Services, UC Office of the President
Laurel Skurko
Marketing & Communications
UC Office of the President