I read 3-4 RFPs a week (lucky me, I know). While the purpose varies, the government's structure is largely the same—background, objectives, predefined tasks, and deadlines. On the receiving end, we eager contractors tear off responding with own background (largely generic), understanding of the objectives (a regurgitation of the scope), an approach to the tasks (nothing really groundbreaking here), and a commitment to meet the deadlines (oh, with usually a ½ page of assumptions that provide wiggle room in case we need it later on). In the end, it feels more compliant then innovative. There is an accepted truism in our industry that any deviation from the scope is certain death. Argh!
So, this polite (but safe) back and forth has become the standard RFP response process. At a high cost to both sides, it misses the point time and again and fails to generate confidence and enthusiasm-- two critical elements for any new project! Instead of a watered-down approach, government clients want thought-provoking perspectives. In place of generic background material, contractors want an in-depth understanding of what is really going on. Three out-of-the-box scope requirements and responses can fix this!
Whether you're issuing or responding, be sure to include...
- Innovation Viewpoint. Too often, RFPs request examples of the firm's past innovation through the lens of project summaries. This approach is limiting because project examples are subject to conditions that may or may not be the same as the challenge at hand. Instead, how an organization thinks about innovative and what they view as new and different is much more telling. The scope requirement might read something like, "Please cite three examples of approaches (INSERT CHALLENGE AND INDUSTRY) that you view as fresh, new, or innovative. Explain why."
- Project Manager's personal statement. Ask the PM in their own words to describe their best project experience, what worked, what didn't, their approach to team-building, and commitment to the task at hand.
- Optimal Working Conditions. Do you understand how your contractor does their best work? You might not have asked because, um, they're under contract and that's their problem, right?. In fact, clients stand to more value per tax-dollar invested if they understand how and where the contractor prefers to get their work done-- things like where they like work, how frequently they like to meet, how they like to get feedback, etc. A government client who makes reasonable efforts to create (or at least allow) that environment gets a more invested project team.