Expert: More government agencies are using the RFP process
Michael Asner, who has published extensively about the RFP process and offers training on the topic, encouraged public agencies to take advantage of a number of best practices that—in his view—are being underutilized. Asner asserted that not enough agencies are taking advantage of techniques such as:
- Best and final offers.
- Use of proof-of-concept demonstrations.
- Tying payment to performance.
- Using fixed-price contracts.
- Using an external fairness officer on high-risk RFPs.
Asner, who serves as an RFP advisor or fairness officer on high-visibility procurements, discussed his views on current RFP trends in government. An excerpt from his interview with GovPro.com is provided below.
- GovPro.com: What areas in government are most likely to use RFPs—construction, IT acquisition?
- MA: RFPs are used by government whenever the evaluation process is based on factors in addition to cost. More and more products, systems, goods and services have ‘quality’ components in terms of performance, maintenance and vendor support staff. And it is for these types of acquisitions that the RFP process works best. All areas of government use RFPs. The use of an RFP is dictated by the type of evaluation being done, not by the area.
- GovPro.com: Are there any applications in government that almost always require RFPs?
- MA: Once you are over a certain threshold—usually $25,000 to $100,000 (or $500,000 in some jurisdictions)—then an RFP is required in almost all government bodies when the evaluation involves more than simply cost.
- GovPro.com: Is the RFP process used in governments worldwide and by all levels of government?
- MA: The RFP is an outgrowth of public policy that requires that the citizenry have equal access to government business, access given in a fair and open competition. So, it’s only Western governments, agencies and nongovernmental organizations and those aspiring to be such. There are virtually identical approaches to RFPs found in the U.S., Australia, Canada, European Union countries, the U.N. and its agencies, etc.
Asner’s textbook, “The Request for Proposal Handbook,” is in use in more than 3,500 organizations. For the last 10 years, Asner has written and published “The RFP Report,” a quarterly newsletter used by public-sector buyers. “A Guide to Public Procurement for Elected Officials and Public Sector Managers” is his attempt to help procurement professionals influence the behavior of their bosses.
For information on Asner and his recent publication, “A Guide for Procuring Complex Commercial Off-the-Shelf-Software (COTS) for Public Agencies: A Drama in Three Acts,” click here.
Additional RFP resources
An RFP is a document that an organization posts to elicit bids from potential vendors for a product or service. An RFP is issued when an organization, which may be a government entity, wants to buy a product or service, and chooses to make the specifications available to many prospective vendors so they can submit competitive bids.
If a government uses an effective RFP process, it can help that government:
- Eliminate inferior vendors from the process.
- Formalize the government’s problem or opportunity.
- Reduce project, product or service cost.
The National Institute for Governmental Purchasing Inc. (NIGP) maintains a reference library of RFP documents for member access. Go to the NIGP members-only section of the NIGP Web site to log in.
The NIGP also offers courses in RFP development. The NIGP’s course on managing RFPs in the public sector is one of the six foundation courses offered by the NIGP for the public procurement profession.
The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) members-only Bid Specifications Database holds thousands of sample bid documents, including RFPs, RFQs and invitations for bid. Sample bids can be downloaded for personal use. Go to the ISM Bid Specifications Database for more information.