Almost habitually, many organizations rely on the Request for Proposal (RFP) process when purchasing technology solutions. Officials tend to view the RFP process as fair and competitive. However, more attractive options, such as the GSA contract (General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule), can assert the same. This article explores three significant problems with RFPs and provides key reasons to consider the use of the GSA procurement process.

RFP PROBLEM #1: The Time to Acquisition is Slow and Cumbersome

RFPs include many time-draining, exhaustive steps, and high-profile steps:

Initial assessment of available technologies

For complicated projects, hiring expensive consultants (sometimes even a separate RFP)

Assessment of current needs, systems, and integration requirements

Manufacturer demonstrations (often used to help system users see products or user interface)

Review of draft RFP by government attorney, staff, and procurement officials

RFP release with advertised “open” period

RFP response review/evaluation

Staff report/recommendation prepared by staff for the governing body

Public meeting process to include award of project to winning bidder

Protest period

Protest review or hearing by governing body (if protest stands, start process over)

Issuance of order to proceed

Project implementation period (often spelled out in RFP)

Acceptance (in some projects, a payment schedule is included in the RFP)

Change orders once project is underway (poor project assessment by the low bidder)

Conversely, GSA contract-holding companies competitively price their services and products before contact. GSA officials with no financial interest in any part of the process review/approve proposed pricing. Government customers and the GSA business work as partners to develop and deploy true technology solutions at competitive prices without going through the time-consuming and expensive RFP process.

ICU leverages a proven process with our clients to identify the desired outcomes, design solutions aligned to those objectives, delivers sustainable systems in a timely manner, and engages after the project to ensure the desired outcomes are actualized.

After the time-consuming RFP process, the customer selects the bidder whose response best “satisfies the request.” The outcome of this process often yields dissatisfaction because the bidder was selected based upon low price and/or “success criteria” which was NOT aligned with strategic needs.   Let’s not forget the phase for prayers that the bidder performs as expected and the hopes that other bidders don’t protest the award.

RFP PROBLEM #2: RFP Consultants Are Often a Big Source of the Issues

More often than anyone would like to admit, RFP consultants rarely keep-up with the fast pace of technology advances. Their out-of-touch “comfort” with dated technology leads to an inferior scope of work (aka: outcomes that suck). When the resulting “solution” doesn’t produce the desired results, the vendor doing the work will point to the RFP, saying “…but this is what you asked for.” The RFP consultant will point back to the vendor, saying “the vendor doesn’t know what they are doing” or worse, the consultant responds with something like “since costs were a priority for you, I can work—at a cost—with your vendor to develop a change-order.” This finger-pointing leaves the customer at the mercy of an inferior (and expensive, time-sucking) process.

Additionally, high-paid consultants are motivated to make the process seem overly complex. Building themselves into the position where you view them as indispensable, the consultant’s chances for continuing consulting work are improved—after all, they are s-o-o-o-o valuable.  Billing for their time, they offer extra process, recommendations for new consulting work, or worse, once underway they offer to provide oversight of the project’s execution.  Functioning in this intermediary role, they distance the customer from the company doing the work and delay successful outcomes.
Government customers are able to manage their technology projects. If manufacturers or vendors are not able to explain their systems well and create a real partnership a search should be commenced to find a new manufacturer or vendor. Government customers are (or should be) in the driver’s seat (don’t be fooled by slick consultant who acts like you’re steering the ship).

Ask a GSA Partner To:

Interview stakeholders to build consensus on the specific problems to be addressed.

Define the exact business outcomes which are expected to be solved.

Map and present a technology solution to include accurate costs represented in a solution proposal.

Deliver and provide excellent after-the-sale support.

Keep using a consultant and an RFP process and you’ll be:

Faced with finger-pointing

Forced to make excuses

Shrug your shoulders and accept your poor outcome

RFP PROBLEM #3: Standardized/Scalable Systems

Sometimes, public sector organizations seek to standardize their systems specify brands or models as part of an RFP. Standardized systems are a good idea, but the limitation to one manufacturer’s products within an RFP can lead to higher costs over time. Behind-the-scenes-deal-making by the manufacturer’s partner companies can lead to the “incumbent” vendor bidding high, but still winning the bid because other “friendly bidders” respond with even higher bids.

Government customers are often over-the-barrel because changing technology is too costly. Sometimes, government customers worry about change because it may look like earlier decisions to standardize were a mistake.

GSA companies allow government customers to focus on a chosen solution then scale the solution over time. Since GSA pricing is approved as being “competitive” the customer knows they are not the victim of price gouging and they can stay within budget. Building a system in a coordinated and well-planned manner leads to better outcomes.

ICU is motivated by having successful, long-term relationships, not short-term profits. ICU supports its customers by making use of existing technology to keep costs reasonable and allow well-planned, thoughtful transitions to new technology. It is commonplace to hear ICU tech experts tell a government customer that some of their systems should be kept in-place to maximize results and system effectiveness. Last, ICU prefers public safety solutions which provide “open” over proprietary architecture.

Too many vendors give technology companies a bad reputation by using hit-and-run tactics focused on making a sale, instead of helping with long-term success. These tactics leave government customers with no long-term plan or help.

ICU’s team of experts is ready to provide the GSA alternative to the RFP status quo. For public sector organizations wishing to form a long-term partnership to use public safety technology to meet your needs. To learn more and get started, click here to schedule a consulation.

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