Owners often misunderstand how much effort goes into preparing a focused and informative proposal and, regrettably, professional service providers often don’t bother to go to the effort to prepare one because it is not always apparent that it makes a difference in the selection. It is certainly no fun to slog your way through voluminous boilerplate that begins to look the same between each proposal. It is also no fun to spend the time and incur the expense of preparing a comprehensive and detailed proposal if it seems that it will not be read.
As the number of project opportunities starts to pick up with the renewed emphasis on rebuilding and expanding our infrastructure, proposers can become selective on what they seriously pursue, and owners will want to do everything possible to get the best teams working on their projects.
So, what can an owner do to improve this process?
1) Decide what is important and tell the proposers what you want to know
This means spending the time to honestly evaluate how you will make your decision and to clearly describe the keys to making that decision. Is it valuable to have each proposer discuss in depth their approach to every aspect of the project delivery process? Do you value innovation? How do you value company experience versus individual staff experience? If what is important to you can be addressed in 20 pages instead of 120 pages, why not encourage brevity?
If an owner takes the time to explain what they want, it is incumbent upon proposers to respond accordingly.
2) Provide all available information
Proposers spend a lot of time trying to locate and obtain all available information related to a project. While it may be impressive that a company has the resources to dig up difficult to locate background information, it does not mean that they are the best team to do the work.
Providing all available studies and plans and conducting a thorough and informational pre-bid meeting shows that you as a client are serious and helps all proposers work from an even playing field.
The shortlisting process allows an owner the opportunity to tell individual proposers that they have a limited chance of being selected due to not addressing what is important, a lack of experience, or a lack of capability.
While shortlisting might increase the amount of time and effort needed to make a selection, it will certainly increase the number of highly qualified bidders who might pursue your project and it allows you to focus on more detailed discussions ensuring better alignment between you and the successful proposer.
Providing a price for professional services at proposal submission, at interview time, or in advance of a discussion of the exact scope and expectations is rarely a valuable exercise for either owner or proposer and detracts from the time that can be spent preparing a responsive proposal. Also, for most public works projects, using price as a part of the selection for professional services is inconsistent with regulations.
While an owner may want to have some idea of the cost of what they are buying, depending on the assumptions made by each proposer, the pricing might vary significantly for what is seemingly the same work. Wait until there is alignment on the scope of work before asking for pricing.