Bad RFP Leads to Homebrew System

Author: Ben Wood, Published on Oct 29, 2013

Bad RFPs continue to plague the industry. In the case of one city, a poorly written RFP led to a contract that likely fails to address one of the main problems they were hoping to avoid. In this note, we review the RFP and what this Illinois city plans to do. 

Here are the basic requirements from the three-page train station RFP:

** ***** ******, ** **** ******* * *** ******* **** show ******* ***** *** ******* ****** ** / **** **, like **:

*** **** ** ****** **** **. ** ***** ***** ********* details ** ************.

The ******

**** **** *** *** ** "*****", * ************ *** ******-***** *** ****** ** ****** ******* ***********

What ** ***'* *****?

*** **********, ***, **** ** ****** *** ** *** *********, including ******* ** **** *** ******** ***** ** ********** ********, but ******** ****** ********* ************** ** *** ********* ** "**** it **** ***** ******** ** *********** **** ***** *** ******* it." 

*** ******* **** ****** ***** *** *** *** **** **********.***. *** **** **** ********* ****** ************ ****** *** ********.  *******, *** ****** ************** *** ****** generic - **, ****-****, *********, ******* ***** - ******* *** listing ** ******** ************ - *.*., ***, ***** **, ***.

Main ******* - *******/******

** ****** ****** ***** ******* ***** **** * **** ******* is exterior ******* **** **** ** ****** **** *** **** ** well ** *** ******* ****** ******** ** *** ******. ****** sunrise/sunset, **** **** ** ******* **** ********. **** **** ********** for *** ******* ** ***** *** ****** ***** ** ***** or ********* ***** *** ********.  

*** ****** ***** **** **** **** ** ********* ** ********* with *** ********* *** ********* *********, *** ** *** *** included ** *** ***.   

*** ******** ** *** ******* *** ******* **** ***** *** WDR, *** *** *** *** ******* ***** ** ******* ** to ****** ******** ** ****** ******** ** ******* *** ******. "** there's ***** ** ** ******** ** *** *******, *** ***'* aim **** ****** *** ***. **** ********** **** **** ** toward *** ***, *** ****'* *** **** *** ***'* **** to **. *** ***** ** ***** *** ********. *'** **** in **** ******** ***** ****," **** ***** ****, *** ***** ** the *******. 

*** **** *** ******* **** **** *** ****** ***. 

**********

***** **** ** ***** *** *** *******, ***** ** *** it ** ***** ** ********* **************. ** **** *** ***** were ****** *****. 

"* ****** **** ******** ***** *** **** ******** ***** ** two ****-******* ******** ******** **** ********* ** ****** **** ** the *****. * ****** ******* *** ******** **** ** ** monitored. There **** ** ****** *****. ***** *** *** * *** of *********** ** * *** ** ********* ******. ** ** honest, * ******'* **** **** ** *** ***. *'* * non-techie ******," ** ****. "* **** ****** *** ***** ** the ******* * ******. * **** ******** *** **** '***** are *** ****** *'* ****** ** *******' *** * ***** that's **** ** *********. *** ******* ** *** **** ** the ****** ** *** ***** **** *'** ***** **." 

** *** ***** ****, ***** **** *** ***** ********* *** objective ********, *** *** ** *******, **** ** *** * technical ***** *** * ********** ****, *.*., ** *** ******* / ****** ***** *** ***** ** *** ***, *** **** could ** ***** **** ******** *********** ************ / *************.

** ******* ******* 

*** ****** ********* **** ***********, ******* **** ******* ******* ***: 

****** *********** ********* *** *** **********,****** ******* ***********, *** *** ******** ******* ** *** *** **** *** that *** *** ****'* ****** ************ *** **************. *** *** done******* ******** ** ********** ******** ****** *** *** *** **** ************ ******** *** another ******** **** *** **** **** ***** *****.

*** ****** ***** **** ****, ****** ******** *** *** ****** because ** "**** ** ******* ** *** *** ****** ***** be **** ** *** ******** ******" *** "** ********* ** relocating ** ****** *** ******* *** ** ********** ***********," *** chief ****. ************, *** **** ******* *** * **** ******* built ** ***, ********* ** **** ******* *********. 

What ** **

*** ***** **** ***** ***** ***** ** *******. ****** *********** *** *** ****** and ********* **** ** ************* *******. ********* ******* /****** ***** ** **** ** ***** ** ** ****** ********** ** ** ****** ******* **** the *** *** *** ******* ****** ******** ******* ***** ******* that ************* ** ******* *** ***** ************ ****** *** *** the **** ***** ** *** ****.

Comments (5)

A useful process is to have a rfc, request for comment from a series of suppliers. This way you can get get an opinion of how things can be done, what types of issues may need to be addressed and many other unexpected comments not thought of. This can then be used to help build an RFP with more meat that can be then be used as criteria to evaluate proposals.

I agree that getting comments from suppliers can be useful. Two things to keep in mind:

  • In this case, the Police evidently knew what the issue was but they simply did not include it in the RFP writeup. If so, this lesson is more about being thorough in documenting one's specification.
  • The challenge of getting comments from suppliers is making heads or tails out of the claims (one supplier says MJPEG is mandatory for use in court, another says P-Iris provides much better images, a third says a 29MP camera replaces 95 analog ones, etc.). It can be overwhelming for a user, without additional research of their own, to figure out which suppliers are correct and not simply regurgitating the marketing pitch.

Chief Holub would be well served by an IPVM membership before undertaking any new RF?s...

I've seen numerous bids like this, responded to a lot and won some. It usually ends up becoming a nightmare post install because the customer assumes they are getting a high tech expensive system for a low cost because they went out to bid. We always bid to meet the bare minimum of the spec and then put in an alternate for a better system we thought was more of what they wanted. Then if we won and they chose the lower bid we could always tell them we provided a cost for a better system.

Thanks Jason. Users take note:

"We always bid to meet the bare minimum of the spec"

That's what users have to expect. In a competitive bid, you can't expect the integrator to anticipate needs and add them in to the base response. Why? It's suicide. They'll ensure they lose the deal.

"Put in an alternate for a better system we thought was more of what they wanted."

That's above and beyond. Good technique though to establish the right expectations and to cite if the customer becomes dissatisfied with their original 'design'.

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