Undisclosed Integrators, Have You Ever Written An RFP That You Responded To?

Trying to gauge how often this happens...

If so, did you win it?

Does anyone ever refuse?


Please clarify.

Are you asking if an integrator has written an RFP for and end user and then competed on that RFP after the end user published it?

Yes.

Sure, it happens, especially if you are a good integrator and your end user wants you but has to issue a formal RFP.

And the integrator then typically shapes the RFP to insert qualifications, tech requirements, etc. that only they can feasibly deliver in their area.

Is it ethical?

It must be a fine art to non-specifically specify ones preferred gear, so as to appear legit

If the end user has requested / approved the integrator to write it for them.

Related, some organizations / government agencies have rules against this, i.e., all RFPs need to be the sole work of the organization themselves. In those cases, it is on the end user.

[It is ethical for them to bid on their own RFP] if the end user has requested / approved the integrator to write it for them.

Let's unpack this statement a bit.

If the end-user has requested that the integrator write the RFP what would be the possible reasons?

  1. Lack of specific knowledge of typical requirements
  2. Lack of specific knowledge of typical solutions
  3. Lack of time/resources
  4. Some combination of the above

The problem here is, if the reasons are any of the above, is that the end-user will no doubt need assistance in evaluating the responses, vetting solutions, redrafting specifications, etc. From the helpful integrator. Because they wrote the RFP. Which biases the outcome even more, if possible.

Add to that the fact that the end user must trust the integrator already if he would let him write the proposal. So the integrator would have to really f*k up not to get this one.

So why would an end-user even bother with the RFP when he knows the outcome?

Usually because he's not really the end-user. He's might be a mid-level manager who has been asked to issue an RFP for a system. He talks to a couple of integrators, starts to get chummy with one of them, and voila! The integrator is helping to write the RFP! On the sly of course, because the companies policy is to bid out.

So, in these very common scenarios, is it still ethical for the integrator, since he knows what is going on? Is his customer the end-user or the end-user's company?

You ask:

"If the end-user has requested that the integrator write the RFP what would be the possible reasons?"

You list 4 reasons but miss the most basic. The end user actually wants the integrator to win. The end user has already made their choice for that integrator and the RFP is simply a formality.

"Usually because he's not really the end-user."

Wrong.

End users often know who the local integrators are and who they want (and importantly don't want).

They are often constrained by formal contracting rules applied to the whole organization (security, IT, landscaping, roofing, etc.).

This is why when the end user knows who he wants yet has to go through the formality, he will get his preferred integrator to write the RFP for him.

There is corruption and graft but what I am describing is very common and not what you are alluding to.

Try not to make wild assumption and state them as questions.

You list 4 reasons but miss the most basic.

No, John I didn't miss the most basic reason.

The whole point of the post was the exact reason you specify! You don't see it in the top list because it is so fundamental I thought it didn't need to be stated explicitly. Of course the 'end user' wants the integrator. The point is that the business may not.

I think you must be misunderstanding the

'Usually because he's not really the end-user."

Maybe I said this a little too cute, but here's the idea.

In terms of the customer, there is the owner and then there is the contact, sometimes they are the same, say in a small family business. In that case its easy, the 'end user' is both the owner and contact.

But as the size of the enterprise grows, so does the likelihood that the owner and the contact are not the same person. Eventually, when the business gets big enough, it's unlikely that they know each other, or even of each other. Agree?

So when you say

End users often know who the local integrators are and who they want (and importantly don't want). They are often constrained by formal contracting rules applied to the whole organization (security, IT, landscaping, roofing, etc.).

I agree totally, except that I think it is more precise to say the contact, (instead of the overly broad end-user), knows who they want. The actual owner (e.g. shareholders) often do not even know there is a decision being made. They are who put the 'formal' rules in place that are being circumvented by the contact. And for a reason! So that the contact just doesn't go with whomever they might like best, without giving everyone a fair chance.

So in these cases, the owner and the contact are working at cross purposes. If you want call the contact the end user, fine, I don't care.

I am talking about exactly what Ethan (and others) are talking about.

"You don't see it in the top list because it is so fundamental I thought it didn't need to be stated explicitly."

I am wrong because you posited a list of reasons and left out the most basic one?

I am busy working on coverage for ISC West and I do not have time to have an academic debate.

I didn't say you were wrong, I admitted I was trying to be too clever. There is no debate anyway because I don't think we disagree.

good luck with the show!

Most public agencies have specific regulations that state that the company writing a RFP or technical specification cannot later bid on the project that the documents were created for. The purchasing departments at most larger corporations would probably also frown on this particular procurement practice because of the great potential for conflict of interest.

I seen integration companies get hired to write RFPs/specs, basicly acting in the capacity of a consultant, knowing that they could not bid on the work. The results have been mixed; having good technical knowledge about systems does not necessarily make one qualified to write specs - good spec writing is an art in itself and a craft that takes years to perfect.

I have an article called Writing an Effective RFP for Security Systems that provides some background on RFP/spec writing.

Michael, despite regulations, corporate or not, do you frequently see integrators writing specs behind the scenes? So instead of them directly writing a spec, they're feeding the spec sections to an engineer who is essentially there to admin the bid process, since the advertising entity has these regulations which they must follow. That way, they can claim they met the letter of the law or policy, and still get their tight integrator spec. That was/is extremely common here.

Ethan, yes, a few times over the years I have seen an architect or electrical engineer use a spec provided by an integrator, sometimes inserting language as blatant as "system shall be provided and installed by XYZ Integrators.....

However, in my part of the world, it is much more common to see specs written or provided by manufacturers rather than integrators. In particular, electrical engineers unfamiliar with security/surveillance technology often rely totaly on manufacturers to write their specs for them. I consider this to be a total abdication of their duties to the client, but it goes on nonetheless.

I once was called in to help a client fix a multimillion dollar security system that was totally screwed up. One major problem was that a totally inappropriate type of access control system was specified - a standalone hotel type system was used when the application really called for a large corporate enterprise type system. When the electrical engineer that wrote the original spec was asked why he chose this system, he stated: "I had to get the spec out over a weekend and the XYZ product was the only one I had a binder on my shelf for..."

All of the time! That is part of the game. From what I have seen many K-12 consultants are generalists with little formal knowledge in surveillance, let alone IP surveillance. This is not true of all consultants. It is very common that they speak to a contractor they feel comfortable with and have them write a specification for them knowing full well it will steer the spec to the contractor. No money changes hands as a part of this service.

About a year ago a friend forwarded me a K-12 RFP that was using a mostly unmodified specification both of us wrote in 2004.

I see it all the my time in my region it depends on who is asking you to write it. I had one from a school that may as well just said "dont waste your f'in time undisclosed is the only possible company that could win" but please bid. Corruption exists in many levels, some are just blatant and it amazes me know one is ever accountable.

Chasing and living on bid work is a slow but certain death.

If I write the spec or rfp , then I have a strong relationship or i definitly have the job.

I dont give technical expertise away and dont consult for others to complete the process.

Yes , I do write the spec. and get paid for it in the contractual language to consult.

And it is a conflict of interest and many companys do it regularly with simple language written into the RFP so that not many others can meet the criteria.