5 Reasons why School Websites Shouldn't use an RFP

One of the most common ways for any organization to search for and choose a web vendor, but with schools it seems to be increasingly popular.  While RFPs aren’t the end of the world, and LightSky certainly responds to its share of them, they may not be the most ideal way to find a web vendor, and here are some reasons why.

RFPs don't Allow Vendors to Focus on Your Needs

This may seem false, but it’s not.  One of the things you are paying for is expertise and experience, and you want to make sure you get the most from that experience.  Take timeline for example, the experience and expertise of your vendor should be a factor in developing timeline.  Perhaps they understand a process or part of the build better and can guide you in determining whether you are allocating too much time or too little time to a particular part of the process.  The RFP process won’t adequately allow a vendor to share that expertise with you, and that makes a lose lose situation.  That isn’t the only area though, features and functionality, solutions to problems, and marketing strategy are all things that can benefit from the expertise of your web firm, and these are all things that are important to know when providing a response to an RFP.  So with an RFP you can potentially miss out on some assistance that can reduce stress and workload later in the project.

RFPs Often Have Hidden Agendas

Not that you would ever do this, but many organizations use RFPs to fill a check box in their process, meaning that they have actually already chosen their web firm prior to issuing the RFP.  Because this is such a common practice many high quality firms that can provide a great deal of value to your project, just don’t respond to RFPs.  While it doesn’t happen with all RFPs unfortunately a few bad apples, have negatively impacted the RFP process in general.

RFPs in General Focus on the Lowest Bid not the Best Solution

With an RFP you are asking for the best price based on a specific set of requirements.  While it seems counter intuitive, it is a far stronger position to ask for the best project for a specific amount of budget.  We are firm believers that budget is where every project should start.  You can’t adequately outline requirements for a project if you don’t clearly know the budget.  Almost all organizations have a budget in mind when they issue an RFP, but almost no RFPs contain a clear and defined budget.  What this leads to is responses that are automatically discounted and thrown out because they are out of the budget, when in reality they may have been the most honest response that you received.  Knowing a budget helps you get honest answers, whether it is in an RFP or in another form of bidding.  It also helps companies choose whether or not bidding is right for them, and it also draws more honest vendors into your process.
Quality discovery isn’t free

Some organizations use general RFPs to start the discovery phase of their project, but in reality discovery shouldn’t be part of the proposal process.  It is separate and very important to the success of your project.  Good quality discovery could be upwards of 100 hours depending on the projects size, and asking someone to put all of that discovery into a proposal is going to lead to poor quality discovery.  We do discovery in the proposal process, but it is very limited.  We obviously need to get to know your organization to be able to propose, but agencies have to limit this cost somewhat.  Avoid asking questions like “what would your organization do for this project”, or “if you win this bid what exactly would you do”, this is all information that would come through discovery.  Choose an agency that you can trust, and work with them to build your requirements based on your needs and budget.  Then you will have a firm that is giving you the best quality results.

There is no Easy Way to Find Good Vendors

When agencies are going up against twenty, or sometimes even more, other agencies during an RFP, it is easy to see that your total proposal will have very little with you being chosen for the project.  Actually many of these proposals will be almost exactly the same.  Do some homework.  If you have to issue an RFP research and find a smaller amount of agencies to respond, then take the time to get quality feedback from them, and choose the best agency for you.  Waiting for people to respond will drastically limit your quality participants.