by Robert Balicsak, Principal, Colliers Project Leaders

Since the launch of the SIF program, Colliers Project Leaders has reviewed many of the RFPs issued by Post-Secondary Institutions (PSI) through the various procurement sites such as MERX and Biddingo. PSIs often fall into two common procurement pitfalls with their RFP documents: depending on industry standard forms and generic RFPs. These are further complicated by not establishing specific goals and strategies to obtain project specific outcomes for the project. Either can make securing the right vendor a challenge or a total disappointment.

Taking a Different Approach

PSIs often fail to treat project specific RFPs with the special attention they deserve. They do not ask for specifics, and ask simple questions that meet industry standard minimum qualifications. Every project is different and unique and therefore, you need your proponents to dig down into the important information that will directly meet your desired outcome. Due to the time constraints on the SIF program owners feel rushed and feel that they just don’t have time to think of what it is they are truly looking for and they end up with results which are less than optimal.

You need to change a number of elements in industry standard forms and generic RFPs to help offset risks of a sub-optimal result and gather the right information to successfully procure the best possible vendors. The following are easy modifications which will result in desired outcomes:

  • Define what a “Similar Project” is and ask for examples which meet your definition;
  • Ask for examples of past projects that contain similar risks and how the vendor persevered and what they would do on your project based on this lesson learned;
  • Ask the vendor to provide their opinion on the risks associated with your project and what their firm would do to help mitigate these risks; and
  • Identify a reasonable timeframe for when the Similar Project was undertaken – not many research/innovation buildings have been built over the past five years which reduces how many people can respond to your requirements.

Take the time to find the right vendor for the job—do not settle. This applies to each procurement you must undertake for your SIF project.  From trades through to consultants and auditors, they should all have the specific abilities you require on your unique project.

Not asking these questions can lead to serious risks later in your project, as the companies you procure may not have the specific experience you need to guarantee your success. If you are concerned that you may not be asking the right questions,  you can contact one of our procurement specialists.

Developing a Strategy

Projects succeed when the upfront planning is well thought out and the vision is clear. You must take the time to develop a procurement strategy for your project. The time that you take upfront will save you 2-3 times the amount of wasted time if not done properly the first time.

Take a moment to look at your project and ask yourself:

  • What makes my project special?
  • What am I really looking for when I evaluate this proposal?
  • What is so unique to my project and how can I ensure this is not lost in the process?
  • What am I trying to accomplish here?
  • What do I specifically need for my project to succeed?
  • Why should I hire this particular vendor?
  • Is the lowest price really what I want or is it the level of service and expertise?

Remember do not start with the RFP, start with the evaluation criteria. Figure out what you want to see and how you would evaluate it and then develop the RFP around what it is you are really looking for.  Only ask for what you are willing to evaluate and lessen the burden on everyone by not asking for information which really does not make a difference.

By starting with these simple questions, you will have a greater chance of assembling a project specific team who has the right expertise and experience in all facets of your project which will better align you for SIF Certainty.