Managing the Device Procurement Process
From the time you publish your RFQ or RFP to the time you award a conditional award to a bidder, it may seem like there isn’t much for you to do. There are several steps you can take to improve your outcomes and ensure that the process moves forward smoothly.
GETTING WORD OUT
- Most school districts have formal procedures that may include posting your RFQ or RFP to a specific location on the district site or notifications on other publicly available outlets including, social media or third-party media outlets. Years ago, this was done by posting a classified ad in the newspaper. Some school districts still follow similar procedures and post notifications to a third-party media source. If your school district has a procedure similar to this, wait for those notices to become public before you send emails to potential bidders to alert them of the bid opportunity.
- The RFQ/RFP administrator should alert potential bidders of the RFQ/RFP publication, share the link back to your website where the RFQ/RFP can be downloaded, and encourage them to bid. These communications should take place by email so that you have written records of the communication in case a bidder later challenges the award and believes that an awarded bidder unfairly received information about the bid. Emails to potential bidders should go out simultaneously or in a close timeframe.
AVOIDING DIRECT COMMUNICATIONS
- Once the Request is published, everyone connected to the procurement in your organization (evaluators, RFP/RFQ administrator, business office, school and district administrators, and school board members) must remain silent about the Request. It’s a good idea to remind those directly involved with the evaluation, awarding of the RFQ/RFP, and the approval of contracts stemming from the RFQ/RFP that they should not engage in any communications about the RFQ/RFP. Any and all communications that occur between potential bidders and these members of your organization should begin and end with a redirection to the methodology for questions as outlined in your RFQ/RFP.
- If you receive questions about the RFQ/RFP, publish your responses to the same website where you posted the RFQ/RFP. Respond to all questions no matter how obvious the answers may be, and don’t paraphrase the question when you publish your responses. Instead, copy and paste the question exactly so that bidders can recognize their question and know that you’ve addressed it. Whenever possible, answer questions by simply referring back to the original RFQ/RFP document. For example, “Please see section 10.2.3 Device Battery.”
- It’s common to receive similar variations of the same question. Answer duplicates by referring back to the first instance of that question. Do not answer duplicate questions with closely worded (but not identical) answers because this can cause more confusion.
- Your published answers to written questions are considered an amendment to the original RFQ/RFP, so take great care in your answers. When you need to offer clarifications or more extended responses, have someone else close to the process read your responses to help ensure they answer the questions.
- If you’re hosting a bidders conference to answer questions about a complicated RFP, record the conference so that you can share the recording. Make sure that you collect an accurate list of every person who attends the conference, including name, email, and company. If someone asks a question that’s difficult to answer, t’s OK not to answer the question and instead respond in writing after the conference.
IMPROVING YOUR OUTCOMES
- By including multiple bidders on the same email when you announce the RFQ/RFP, you are planting the seed in the bidder’s mind that they must compete for your business. That’s the goal!
- Publish the list of bidders who attended your bidder’s conference. For complicated RFPs, companies likely need to partner with other vendors, and this can help them find each other. The list also shows that several bidders are competing for your business.
- If a submitted question results in a response that may require significant work for bidders to adjust their bids, consider whether or not the timing of the publication of your response provides adequate time for bidders to respond. You may need to adjust your submission deadline.
RECEIVING AND OPENING BID PROPOSALS
As you receive bid proposals, you will need to make sure that no bidder was unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged over others.
- Maintain a log, including the name of the bidder, date, and time of when each bid proposal is received. If a bid proposal includes more than one envelope or package (some RFQ/RFPs request sample products), make sure to log each parcel. Many organizations will also write the date and time on the packaging when received along with initials of the individual who received them.
- Store all bid proposals in a secure location. Your log of receipt will help ensure that when you open the bids, you don’t miss one.
- Keep bid proposals sealed until after your submission deadline.
- Save the packaging of each bid proposal until after your appeal window closes as proof of when the bid was received.
- Do you have an appeal window or appeal process? This is when bidders may file formal appeals, challenging a bid award if they feel the process was compromised. If your school district does not have an established appeal window or appeal process, consult with your state’s procurement office for guidance.
- Consider whether or not evaluators will see cost proposals before proposals are read and evaluated. Some organizations elect to keep cost proposals undisclosed to evaluators to avoid the potential that knowing the cost proposal may bias their evaluation and scoring. If you decide to keep cost proposals undisclosed from the evaluation team, consider requiring bidders to submit the cost proposal form in a sealed envelope inside the package that contains the overall bid proposal so that it is easy to separate the cost proposal.
EVALUATION AND SCORING
Distribute copies of proposals to each member of your evaluation team as well as instructions so that each evaluator follows the same process. Ensure that evaluators are scoring each proposal purely against the criteria set forth in your RFQ/RFP, and not on factors that were not included in the Request.
- Larger, more complicated RFPs may include presentations or interviews with bidders, while RFQs typically do not. Bidder interviews allow your evaluators to ask clarifying questions, not for a bidder, to alter or add to a proposal.
- As evaluators score various components of an RFP, a bidder’s capacity to deliver on services and delivery dates should not affect the technical scoring of the proposal. If evaluators doubt a bidder’s ability to deliver services as described or ship equipment on time, they can note this in the Bidder Qualifications and Experience (BQE) portion of the scoring.
- Create a template for your evaluators to enter their scores for each scored item in your scoring rubric.
1 | Publish your RFQ or RFP, and alert potential bidders and respond to any questions.
2 | Prepare instructions for your evaluators, including scoring templates.
3 | Assemble your evaluation team and score the bid proposals.
You can also check out our guidance on How to Get Started with Device Procurement and How to Create your RFQ or RFP.