By April 4, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Procuring FM Services – Are You Asking The Right Questions?

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There is a simple mistake many Facility Managers (or their procurement departments) make when writing the Request For Proposal (RFP) questions for FM services. I've seen it time and time again, having written my share of proposal responses both for past employers and for some consulting clients, assessed procurement practices, procured FM services and helped FM clients with their evaluation process for their own procurement initiatives. As you can see, I have lots of experience with RFP questions, both good and bad.

They don't ask the right questions.

I've learned that the quality of the questions you ask is critically important to your evaluation process, to differentiating suppliers, making it easy for them to respond to your RFP (yes, that's important!) and for evaluation. It's one of the key ways you  establish whether the supplier is capable of delivering what you need.

And yet it's something that is frequently done haphazardly and without a strategy for getting information you need not only to assess an individual supplier but also compare amongst them and identify the differentiators will enable you to pick a winner.

Even worst, you are probably asking questions that quite frankly, don't matter. Especially if you have pre-selected the bidders, either in a formal Request for Qualifiactions (RFQ) or by reputation. Don't ask basic questions about whether they can deliver the services - you should already know this, or you wouldn't invite them to bid.

The questions you ask should be short, clear and concise. Don't ask a question with several sub-questions buried in it. Separate them out into separate questions or use a list to indicate the items you want them to cover.

Always ask them to demonstrate what they are saying to you with specific examples or specific past experience. Ask for a copy of documents or at least confirmation that they exist and a table of contents. Make them tell you if they are developing something specifically for you or if they already do it for other clients.

Try to identify the intent of your question where possible and word it so it is easy to understand and interpret. Don't make them guess what you want. For instance, I've seen an RFP ask for a 'detailed summary' of how a bidder provides a service. What exactly is a 'detailed summary' and is it even possible?

One more thing. Give relatively tight page limit, along with minimum font size and margins. Shorter RFP responses are easier to evaluate and will force the bidders to eliminate most of the marketing fluff while giving you solid information you can use to evaluate. It's harder for the bidders, but it will make it easier for you. Mark Twain once said "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."

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