5 Tips for Writing Effective RFPs
When a campus has a large electronic security project, a request for proposal (RFP) can help the institution select the best integrators for the job. These suggestions will you help you craft an RFP that delivers results.
2. Limit the Number of Bidders
When it comes to how many integrators are allowed to bid on a project, often the phrase “less is more” is apropos. “If you have too many on your bid list [more than six], the integrators will say, ‘I only have a one in 10 shot at this, we’re not going to go to a lot of trouble,’” says Grossman. “If they have a one in four shot, they are going to work harder on the bid.”
When starting the RFP writing process, some campus safety professionals may want to do a budgetary round to prequalify integrators before they undertake the lengthy bid process. “Maybe you are a big hospital or university, and people are coming out of the woodwork to do your job,” says Grossman. “You can do a spec in a draft form.” Campus officials can then send it to all of the prospective bidders. The integrators’ responses will help institutions determine which contractors are not qualified or too expensive for the job. It also helps determine how much a project will cost.
3. Weigh Input from Manufacturers
One way to cull the number of RFP respondents is to only allow those integrators to participate that are authorized dealers of a product line. Of course, this approach requires prior knowledge on the campus security professional’s part of the products available, which can be a challenge. Still, this is one way some campuses determine if they will consider an integrator for a project.
“You need to know who the integrator is an authorized dealer for and the reputation of those companies,” says James Overton, Delaware State University’s police chief. “We use Honeywell, Bosch and Panasonic products. What we’ve learned is that their support of the integrator is pretty good. If there is a problem that can’t be solved at the integrator level, they have a relationship with the manufacturer that will help us solve it.”
If an integrator is licensed by a manufacturer, there is a good chance it will be competent because a manufacturer will not risk its reputation by allowing just anyone to install its products. Also, if a campus has chosen a certain brand of equipment, it’s good to check with its manufacturer to see how or if the product selected will integrate with everything else.
That said, campus officials should be certain the authorized dealer being considered isn’t too biased towards one manufacturer, possibly excluding more appropriate solutions. According to Jeff Fields, senior security consultant for EDI Ltd., manufacturer involvement in the RFP process can be a double-edged sword, sometimes limiting the legitimate options available. “We always want to err toward the customer’s right to choose,” he says.
William Dahlstedt, who is vertical marketing manager for the integrator Universal Security Systems, says, “Everybody’s got their limitations, so you can’t expect them to install everything. But the integrator shouldn’t be based around just one type of manufacturer.”