Last week I thought about buying a new car. So I put an ad in the Car Dealer Weekly addressed to all the car dealers in the country and asked them what they have on offer.
I said I needed two doors, but maybe four, and an engine that is economical but powerful, a seat for the driver, a seat for a passenger, carpet, a radio, and so my list went on and on explaining all the mundane features of a bog standard vehicle right down to the ash tray component and the ability to see out of the rear window with a mirror that is possibly glued to the windshield. And if it had an anti-glare feature that would be good also.
I paid a consultant to write this ad for me and it took him four weeks to do it. He’s also going to evaluate all the responses I get from companies that sell cars. It’ll take him another three weeks to do that. Then I’ll realise I need a van.
This might sound bonkers but it’s how the RFP process works and a growing number of resellers are voicing their concerns that government departments are wasting their time and resources by issuing RFPs that waste resources because they never get awarded to anyone.
A major reseller who confided in this column has joined the growing number who have chosen to opt out of the entire process and ignore government tenders.
Instead of standing there asking all and sundry to submit proposals for a service or product, resellers are now saying let’s turn the RFP process upside down and get the government to do their homework.
Resellers are saying the RFP process is flawed. One reseller who did not wish to be named expressed such mystification, and it is worth quoting this person at length.
“The way they approach it is wrong, the people they get to do it is wrong. You’d think that the vendor with the best response is guaranteed not just to get the job but to offer the best solution for the needs and yet somehow it never happens,” the reseller says.
“The ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade put out a tender for the same thing three times in six years and ended up not doing anything and now instead of buying software they’ve now gone out to tender for outsourced services to do the same thing.
“The consultants that they use are not a good medium or intermediary between the line of business and the vendor. I just think the quicker you can get the business unit and the vendor together and the more time they spend together, the better you’ll know whether it’s the right fit in terms of the product and the ability to customise it. I think they should go and do their window shopping beforehand and find out about the product they’re looking for and the vendors who specialise in it.”
The reseller says there are only ever really two or three vendors out there who can offer the service or product that is being asked for anyway, and that to issue RFPs under the guise that it is a fair and free competition is pointless if the solution is rarely ever found. He says that following up on tenders six months after his response was submitted to check who won the deal put him off applying again. The amount of RFPs that were actually awarded was very low while some were resubmitted a couple of years later.
It seems that the only people making any money out of the RFP business at times are the consultants. So if they’re reading this; I’m available for freelance work. Or is that too short a sentence? Maybe it should have been 150 pages long.