RFP, RFQ, RFI…begin with the end in mind

Anybody recognize this situation?

You’re in the procurement (formerly called purchasing) department of a school board, hospital, municipal, regional, provincial or federal government department or a private sector business of some kind and the boss says to you,

“Walter/Martha, it’s high time we get someone in here to fix our security cameras/access controls. Some of the equipment isn’t working as it should, and we’re almost at the end of our contract with Company XXX. We need to get this stuff fixed before the boss catches on and makes a big deal of it. Put an add on Merx/Biddingo/Buy and sell/our own website to let people know what we need”.

And with that astonishingly vague instruction Walter or Martha proceeds to create a document that says something that starts off with “supply and install video surveillance equipment…..”

What’s the general result of this kind of approach?

Based on the hundreds of RFPs, RFIs or RFQs we sift through on a daily basis there may be 30, 40, 50 or more respondents that download the opportunity presented. If a project owner is somewhat hesitant to divulge respondent information there may be the all too often quoted “Owner does not want to disclose document takers!”

Nonetheless, Walter or Martha who are likely very good at their jobs are faced with sifting through 30, 40, 50 or more responses. In the interests of brevity here, I’ll summarize their responses thusly:

“We’ve got what you need. We’re the best at what we do. Please buy my widgets.”

Aside from the fact that Walter and Martha are good at what they do, chances are better than good that they do not have the depth of technical expertise to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak on the 30, 40, 50 or more respondents.

So, how to make a decision?

Regrettably the decision is all too often based on price and price alone.

Bad idea. And it’s a bad idea because even though chicken stock may be on sale at $0.49 a container, if you’re making beef barley soup, chicken stock is a poor substitute. Buying celery just because it’s cheap doesn’t do you any good if you’re making chocolate brownies.

Imagine this. You’re a 10-year old kid and Mum sends you to the mall to get a rain coat as spring is approaching and you’re still one of the few non-bubble wrapped kids that is permitted to walk to school. Mum wants you to have a raincoat, gives you $75 and tells you to go to the mall and come home with suitable rain gear.

You mount your 10-speed rocket cycle and head to the mall. You decide to spend $29 on the raingear and blow the rest on lunch and movie with your buddy. You return home with your $29 rain coat that has no pockets, no hood, a faulty zipper and it lasts 2 weeks before it’s on its way to the landfill, and you’re in the doghouse with Mum. Ouch! And you don’t eat dinner because you’re “full”. Double ouch!!

Now imagine this. Mum gives you $75 and tells you to buy a medium sized, yellow rubberized raincoat, Brand XX from Store YY. Further, she tells you that there must be two outside pockets with flaps so as to avoid said pockets filling with rain, and one deep inside pocket to carry your report card home safe and sound. The jacket is NOT to have a zipper because they break, it’s to have a Velcro closure on the front. The jacket is to come complete with a rain hood which you know will make you look like a complete dork. But you’re only 10 years old. Living on your own is not yet an option.

Grudgingly you relent.


Off you go to the mall on your 10-speed rocket cycle, spend the entire allotted $75 and Mum’s a happy camper as you bought EXACLTY what she instructed you to get, so much so that she offers to take you and your buddy to lunch and then drop you off, on your own, to enjoy a movie of your own choosing and to scarf down a bushel basket sized hamper of greasy popcorn and a bladder buster sized drink of swamp water to slake the thirst generated by all that sodium spiked corn.

Result – win-win. Mum’s happy with your purchase, you and your wingman/woman go to go to the movies as her treat and the next time it rains, you’ll be dry as you transport you C+ filled report card home for your parents review and discussion. At least you’ll have their admiration for presenting a dry report card. Remedial classes are in the offing. You’re left to wonder about the importance of art class to your future life, C+ notwithstanding.

Back to the video surveillance or access control gear or wireless access points, AV equipment, phone system, or any other voice, video or data systems you might need in your enterprise.

Hire a consultant. They will figure out EXACTLY what you need after a thorough discussion with you and your boss and anyone else with an opinion on what’s needed. Yes, Frank from IT can join the discussion and impress everyone with his knowledge of IPV4 vs IPV6, GPON and the Internet of Things.

Your consultant will write a detailed specification which you can then post on the bid site of your choosing. Your consultant will then review the tender submissions, weed out the ones that don’t comply with the technical specifications which will then allow you to make a decision based on price, given that several respondents have met the technical specifications for what you need.

Team workResult – you get exactly what you need, the entire office is happy, the boss can crow about “his/her” success in “letting you run with the ball” demonstrating his/her tremendous leadership abilities, with you then being carried on the shoulders of your grateful cubicle mates on the way to your new walnut desk in the office of the new boss, who is now you. Your old boss is one step closer to the executive suite and out of your hair. Nirvana.

The names and situations noted above have been fictionalized to avoid possible embarrassment to any persons in real life.

If you’d like assistance in determining what your organization needs as regards anything to do with voice, video or data systems, Fancom’s on staff RCDD’s (Registered Communications Distribution Designer) can help. The RCDD is to communications design as the P. Eng. is to mechanical and electrical design. A P. Eng. will look after water, air and energy while the RCDD looks after the 4th utility – IT communications.

And if IT doesn’t work, the boss WILL NOT be happy.

And if that argument doesn’t convince you to hire an RCDD before you start on your next project, you should do it for Mum.

Maybe she’ll buy you lunch and take you to a movie, complete with popcorn.

For all your IT design requirements please feel free to contact Fancom Connects at any time.

905-990-4845 ext. 206 or [email protected]