Rfps: Say No To Specs

Watch the video:

An interesting perspective.

Well produced and funny video, I watched it a few times.

Btw, here is that agency's blog post related to the video.

The challenge, though, is actually getting vendors to refuse to participate. For example, if ABC integrator refuses to respond, ADT, TIS, JCI, etc. will. So the net/net is ABC loses, right?

ha ha ha!

In fairness, the risk aversion of the RFP process is best suited to protect projects putting up thousands (or more) of dollars, not $1.75 for coffee or $50 per month gym memberships.

Also, just like the architect in the clip, it is always within potential bidder's rights to just say 'no thanks' to a solicitation.

Btw, best quote to me in that video is:

"No, I am an architect. I am a professional. I get paid for my time."

That's not how some integrators feel. It's more of "hey maybe I can move a bunch of boxes if they pick me."

Perfect. That is really good. There is a message in that.

Thanks John,


fwiw, just to note, this video is about "working on spec" in the creative industry, which is a bit more exploitative than in security and often requires finished product to be produced.

The analogy for security systems is doing a systems design, figuring out where cameras should go, what they cover, what resolution, what features, what recording, etc., etc.

The guy doesn't ask for a taste of coffee, he want a whole one free.

Its a valid analogy, but it's worthwhile pointing that's what it is, as you did.

Funny but far too simple.

Margins depend on competition. No competition, higher margin,

Less business, higher competition, free study, free test, and sometimes bribes (uh, not only in African countries, yes you pay to sell), thinner margins...

Locally you have few local competitors and can argue on knowhow, people buy your skills, and you will decide the specs for the customer

On national or international tenders, you won't even meet the customer or do a site survey. The Specs are coming from the engineering office.

On my side, I do sometimes - free things (like 3D simulations ) but having in mind this is a way in business to get attention versus competition, and opportunity to get confidence for further creamy business later on. When doing a free training or conference: if I'm not too bad, I know that among the audience I will always get my day and my ROI (guess? it's not a Region of Interest here)

Best line is "...you work for the government."

A great video! Full disclosure, as an independent consultant and designer so I have a vested interest in this issue. And i see owners relying on integrators to do a design all the time. The fact is, Owners often have no idea what they want and most importantly, what they need. Where do i get this stuff? How much does it cost? What is the process to get it done? What is the tolerance my company has for such technology? How much security is enough? An integrator could do a good job on putting in what the Owner wants, but maybe not what the Owner actually needs. There are exceptions, of course, but the end that integrators business model is not about giving advice, its about making things work. And i cannot speak to all consultant's work (there is some really bad work out there). Although my allegiance is to the Client, i want to make sure the integrator who works on my projects makes a reasonable profit. To this end, I make sure bid documents provide clarity about the work needed to be done and the products to be supplied (sometimes to a fault).

Anyway, a couple of thoughts come to mind: 1) if you have a cultivated relationship and you don't have to worry about loosing the bid, then go for it; 2) include your "design fee" in your final proposal as a separate line item (then you may have to worry about pricing yourself out of a job); 3) enter an agreement with the Owner that if you do the design work and you don't get the job, he will pay your design fee directly; 4) include a design fee as an add to all the bid (in essence have the other integrator pay for your services. I know this is weird, but i have seen it work); and 4) (the most self-serving of all), refer the design service to a qualified "independent consultant" who you know can do the job (again, you may risk losing the job to another integrator, but at least you have not put anything into the design effort).

I agree with 98% of what you say there Undisclosed 3, but I have to ask, what is "reasonable profit" and why do you get to decide? Seems like that is my job.

I don't- in a competitive situation at least. It is what it is. But where change orders are concerned, it's my job to reject price from an integrator who has already got the job. In the spec, change orders can be subject to a max number for P & O ( i.e. In my State, project allow a max of 15%).

Also, its my job to check and approve change orders. I have some of the same estimating tools and access to pricing information that you do, but i often use MSRP. I require a materials list from the integrator, which i then compare to published hourly standards (I already know the Integrator's hourly wage). I also back check quantities and look for mistakes in calculations (i saved $100K in just such a change order where the integrator had a mistake in his Excel formula). If I find discrepancies, I talk to the integrator about them and if the reasons are legitimate i make a recommendation to accept to the owner. I will also tell the owner if I think the cost is too high, but it is still the Owner's decision as to whether or not the change order is done. You should also note that I have had at least two situations where it worked the other way. Those mistakes would have cost the integrator.

Also, I try and use unit prices provided at the time of bid and actually considered in RFP evaluations ; but allow for flexibility on the install. For example, I get a unit cost on installation of a Camera Hardware Group (which has a camera, brackets, programming, license fees, etc) as well as a unit price for cable, raceway, etc. These unit prices are also considered as an evaluation item (if its an RFP). If the Integrator submits a materials list with a 1000 feet of cable, i can easily verify that number and work it out between the integrator and I before the Owner hears about it.

I realize the value of a good integrator and consider them as part of the "team" after the bid is awarded. I keep them up to date on issues, and respond to RFI's and submissions quickly. I truly don't want my integrator to loose money on the project (hence the reason why my projects are usually more expensive). I have lost very few battles, simply because there are none.

I have allowed my company to reply to two RFP's since 1986. (in both cases we got a no and a lesson."

The problem with RFP's are they focus on the ingredients of the cake, and not the taste. Once the ingredients are defined, the value of knowing what's necessary becomes lost. Example, We have a widget that costs $99, and we have 10+ years experience with it, and it does 100% of the segment leader that sells for $5,000. (true pricing difference without naming the items.)

A typical RFP from an Architect or Consultant will include veiled requirements that can only be met by the perceived segment market leader. With all due respect, most consultants or architects have little real, or long term experience selling, installing, and supporting anything.

When RFP's include real Performance Based requirements, as opposed to shopping lists, I'll revisit my NO RFP position.

Are the vendors in the video actors or just themselves unrehearsed and unscripted?