I’ve pretty well given up responding to RFP’s. In most cases they are are so poorly worded that you don’t really know what the client wants. Unless you have inside knowledge, responding to an RFP is a crap shoot. I am referring here to RFP’s for consulting services, especially performance improvement, and not those requesting commoditized goods or services that can be clearly specified
As the successful bidder you have to meet the requirements as stated in the RFP, even if they they make little sense. It may be cheaper to sub-contract a task that is required, but the RFP requires it, so you calculate it at double what someone else could do it for. Clients do this so that they only have to manage one contract.
I recently came across this article on The Elephant in the Room, from Hamer Associates [I wish there was an RSS feed on this site]:
And this is where the RFP process breaks down –in the case of human performance management or change consulting– the RFP seeks the cheapest (or most experienced) provider of a solution to a problem; a solution that the organization has already chosen. However, as I reflected on past RFP responses, in too many cases the problem either was not defined, not communicated, or so poorly defined that it begged discussion. And even in cases where the problem was defined, the chosen solution often would not have solved the problem.
I had a similar case a few years back where the client’s RFP required e-learning, but I was quite certain that e-learning would not address their issues. Luckily, I was able to negotiate some time for a “confirmation of the analysis”. My report enabled a significant reduction in e-learning (courses online) and a new focus on performance support and procedural changes.
Too often, consultants do just what the RFP has called for, even if it is not in the best interests of the client. RFP’s may be the safest contracting method from an accounting or a bureaucratic perspective, but for real organisational performance improvement they are definitely not the best tool.