New RFP: 10 Years Out of Date

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on May 05, 2013

Bad RFPs are an unfortunate fact of life in video surveillance - hurting end users and frustrating quality integrators. A new RFP from Oklahoma is a great example - incredibly out of date and hard specified to a manufacturer in steep decline. In this note, we break down the RFP and explain the issues involved.

Taft Stadium holds some history. The stadium, originally a New Deal project, has gone through numerous renovations over the years, but now the Oklahoma City icon is undergoing a major facelift.

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Comments (12)

It is probably one of those bureaucratic issues where something gets planned and spec'd, delayed, delayed, and finally it is very difficult to change the specs. Seems to happen with just about any large organization, especially government, especially something run as a construction project.

350 cubic yards of concrete in a spec won't change much, if at all over 5-10 years, technology is a different story...

I wish I knew who to send this to in OKC to make them take a step back and revamp this spec......I am sometimes angered at how our money is spent.

Mike, there is someone you can talk to, but in my expereience they're not likely to listen. The procurement offices are supposed to keep an eye out for stuff like this, but in many cases they don't know any better.

The only way a client can issue a proper RFP is to hire a security consultant that is specifically a consultant for this security and CCTV - a consultant that is in the game. Unfortunately clients generally hire a general consulting firm for building their projects and they rarely add on a second consultant up to date with security. The end result is a copy-paste specs/RFP from these general consultants that use the same specs for 30 years.

Looks like a spec written by an electrical engineer rather than a security/surveillance specialist. This is very common on construction projects, where the architect assigns the surveillance system to the electrical engineer because it is "electrical".

While well-intentioned, most engineers aren't well versed on the latest surveillance technology and often write their specs based on whatever product literature they happen to have lying around and/or the last sales rep that visited their offices. Doing a "cut-and-paste" from a previous project spec is also very common. This one is actually a lot better than many I have seen.

Even a very well written spec can become dated very fast. On large construction projects, it is often two years or more between the time we submit our final spec and when the installation of equipment begins. Once something is in the construction contract, it can be an expensive bureaucratic nightmare to change it. On one large hospital project I did recently, it was seven years between when we started our design work and when the building was finally occupied.

On long running construction projects, I try to encourage my clients to install the infrastructure (conduits, backboxes, etc.) under the construction project, but postpone purchasing the technology (cameras, card readers, VMS, etc.) until the project is closer to completion. We usually include an allowance for technology in the construction budget so the owner can capture this in his overall construction costs. This strategy works well on private sector projects but many public agencies won't allow it.

After 27 years working in government I totally agree with Mike's statement. We so often forget just who's money we are spending. We have multiple layers of budget lines but not the bottom line Whick is the taxpayers money. As for the RFP, I have only been dealing with this side of things for about a year but the specs. look way out of date and I would be really interested to see what they are going to spend on this.

Just bit of free internet research and the membership fee to this site saved our Department about 10k on a 70k expansion project. Money and a bit of time well spent.

As a security/surveillance specialist (refering to Mike Silva's point), our consulting firm has been hired to right several projects that went off the rails. In other instances, the project already was in litigation and we were hired as expert witnesses.

In each case, we could point to key problems stemming from poor specifications because they were inaccurate, out of date, incomplete, or cobbled together from multiple sources (Pie-in-the-Sky). In the case of Pie-in-the-Sky specs, they are unbuildable and resulted in a change order domino effect or the integrator walking off the job.

Another comment about the title of this article "10 years out of date", AIA started formally promoting and contributing to CSI MasterFormat circa 2004. At that time, Security was given its own Division #28.

So yea... right at about 10 years out of date.

Before we totally castigate the school district we should realize that this is likely an outgrowth of constrained budgets and I would wager the old spec was dusted off and published to avoid trying to find the funds for an update of the specifications. Funding for education in Oklahoma is always near the ranking of states spending on education.

Question for the group: Ethically, do we as competent integrators and members of the public owe a duty to call the agency, the school district, and alert them to the problems with the RFP or just assume those firms pursuing the RFP will do that?

While it is tax payer money, it's the elected officials job to make sure the public employees are doing their jobs properly. There are various government agencies or oversight groups that are responsible for making sure the monies are well spent or multiple bids are requested. I don't feel that the private industry has an obligation to look out for such things other than to offer fair services at what they feel are a priced at market value.

Of course if an integrator or consultant is involved then they should have oversight and responsibility for the specs and cost involved but they too charge a fee to do so. There are many projects that require or benefit from these services but there are also many times public employees just default to paying the extra fees rather than doing some research on behalf of their true employer, the tax payer.

Jack, I tried to get in touch with Oklahoma City schools to discuss this with them before we published this post and contacted them them again today, providing a copy of what we wrote about it here. I'll keep you posted on what I hear back and what they want to say about it.

Carlton, I do believe it's the right thing to do. I suspected a local gov't-focused A&E firm had written the spec many years ago but they did not. Hopefully the school district will respond to your inquiry. If not, I know the Athletic Director's name and it's he who will inherit the facility in fine shape or poor. If your attempt bears no fruit, then I'll go at it from here.

Jack, I spoke to the project manager this afternoon. He said they're going to look into doing a change order for the project and that he's open to anyone who wants to contact him with suggestions. You can see the full update here.

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