If your company is like ours, it gains a lot of its lead source information through the various bidding sites – whether that is Biddingo, Merx, Databid, or Government sites – each site have a separate focus. It can become increasingly difficult to track several tenders at once through the various procurement avenues as some may notify automatically and some may not. These are a few of the challenges companies face administratively, but the challenges I am referring to lie in the details (or lack thereof), quality of content, and an overall disconnect with the facility’s request for a fully customized solution.
I have been preparing response proposals for over three years and I am noticing the common trends and mistakes facilities make using templated documentation for their RFP’s. Terms and conditions for one industry may vary from another, yet we have to abide to the terms that are originally set out in the document, legally binding us to unnecessary legalities. I have seen documents with the wrong facility name or the [name] filler on a few pages, as it was used for a previous request and never changed. Those mistakes call for an addendum because attention wasn’t paid to those details. A wrong term, a wrong facility name, a spelling error, typo, and or missing information can all be a cause for cancellation, addendums, extensions, delays and an overall distrust in the company that is requesting a proposal. It is all in the details.
Now – to me, those are just itty bitty details that are not necessarily detrimental to providing a pricing proposal. But if these are small details that can easily be avoided by proof reading and spell check, then what about the significant details such as design concept and scope that do affect the bottom line? This is information that is acquired through expertise, product knowledge, and technical engineering. The procurement process is systematic, their documentation/system design is based on information they have received in the past from dealers, manufacturers, consultants, other project stakeholders or previous projects and templated to be reused in future request for tenders. They expect a customized solution to be proposed with the generic technical information with or without drawings or counts, asking exact numbers. With only one site visit and a semi-closed communication with the procurement agency/facility, it is difficult receiving all the answers needed to price accordingly.
In many cases, procurement agencies/facilities are acquiring design assistance from engineers or consultants. This provides sub contactors (like us) a scope of work to guide in our proposed system types, allowing for us to better understand the solution needed. An engineer or consultant may have experience with a particular industry and concept of a system, but may not be able to fully design and/or engineer a system they are not technically certified in. They do however; take the reins, unburdening the facility of any technical responsibility when it comes to mapping out the needs of the facility. There are now three parties involved that can distort communication and understanding of the project in its entirety. They do provide a better outline for a subcontractor to work with but there is still a gap between design concepts and needs assessment of the potential client.
The Evolution of Procurement
I’m at $500 n I wan $550, $550, bid on $550, I’m at $500 would you go $550, $550… and sold for 550.00!
The typical idea of procurement runs much like an auction. Think of auction hunters or storage wars, they barely have time to look through the storage space to determine the value of the items inside. In fact they are only able to view from a distance with a flashlight and the highest price wins…
Procurement is an auction, a gamble, an estimation of what a potential client needs. Why does it have to be that way? A few hundred dollars – sure, but when dealing with a complete retrofit, new install, moves/adds/and or changes that range from a minimum $1,000’s to 10 million dollar range; it is unclear why it is relied on chance. With funds like that, there should be more certainty on what you are paying for. For subcontractors it is much the same as looking from the outside of storage bin with a flashlight. Avoiding disruptions, facilities don’t always allow for full access and disclosure – and we only have one chance to look, document, take pictures, and listen.
So many questions come up during a site visit, so much to make note of, what is everyone’s role, where is IT, how do nurses respond to calls, who takes care of the security, what integrations do you require, is there existing conduit, what is the infrastructure? It can be nearly impossible to answer all of those questions without climbing up in ceilings and taking the time to know the day to day routines of a business.
It is time for the procurement industry to take on more of a door to door concept. In our experience we have taken the time to work closely with several businesses of all industries, designing a solution that is tailored to their needs, their business duties, and their industry. The projects from concept to completion are seamless with little to no discrepancies. It was crucial for us to be more intimately involved in the project/tendering process to receive those results. It is the small details that can really provide a more definite price but an even better customer experience. System installers need to be more involved in the design of the system, writing of the specification or tender package which should include the needs assessment, system operations, and functional roles, as they are the makeup of the entire operation.
It was only recently that we started working with churches, providing audio visual systems that are specific to religious rituals. During the 8 year long construction process, it was apparent that many people were involved in the decision process. People from the congregation, clergy, consultants, IT, contractors, and subcontractors were all involved in the design and functionality of the system. When reading the specification and procurement documentation, the only information provided was the system specifications and design concept. When we really started working closely with the facility before the job was awarded we became aware of how much was really entailed in the install, programming, and design. The documents and drawings had no information regarding their religious culture and the demographics and psychographics of who is using the system, inevitably prolonging the project to accommodate those types of characteristics. It was a complete learning curve for us! But it all makes sense, what a potential clients needs is someone who understand not only the big picture but all the small ones that make it up.
How can we [installers] be expected to design, price, and propose a custom solution if generic information is provided? It is important for installers to spend the time to answer those questions that the potential client may not know exist.