While it is common for security and facilities managers to issue a “Request-for-Proposal” (RFP) when purchasing a security camera system and/or access control, it isn’t always a good idea due to the limitations it puts on both your security provider and the new equipment which you’re requesting.
At the end of the day, writing an RFP could end up being a huge waste of time – and if you follow through with vendors that accept your RFP, you could be severely limited by your product selections or worse – completely out of luck if your security provider goes out of business or decides not to offer support for the products that have been installed per your RFP.
Pros of the RFP process
When using the RFP procurement process to purchase and install a security system, a project leader will document all of the project’s requirements, necessary materials, timelines, and details, and submit a formal proposal to numerous vendors that he/she wishes to consider. Vendors will respond only if they can fulfill the exact request and won’t include any extraneous information or suggestions. This solution typically only works if you have extensive knowledge of the security products, which brands are best, and in which applications these products are meant to be used. If you’re a project manager with extensive knowledge on what you’re submitting a proposal for, here are a few reasons why you can benefit from the RFP process:
It offers a level playing field. You can submit your RFP to any vendors who meet your qualifications and all vendors will have access to the same information. You’ll likely receive multiple quotes from competing vendors and will have the opportunity to select the most reasonable offer.
It puts focus on specific criteria. Your security project manager can direct the company’s evaluation committee to focus on specific information outlined in the proposal. This ensures that the committee won’t be influenced by extraneous information that the project manager doesn’t find pertinent to the RFP and that vendors will be compared on criteria established by the project manager.
It offers the potential to discover new vendors. If your project manager has cast a wide net – submitting RFPs to multiple qualified vendors– this provides the opportunity to work with a new and potentially better-suited vendor for your project.
Cons of the RFP Process – Proprietary, Descriptive, and Performance
While some organizations use the RFP process in order to find exactly the products they have researched and hand-picked, this amounts to a lot of limitations when it comes to which vendors can help you, how long your new equipment will be supported, and a number of other downsides. If you’re thinking about writing a lengthy RFP for a security project, here are a few reasons why you may be wasting your time.
Many RFPs use the Proprietary Method, which involves the buyer describing exactly what he wants to buy, how he wants it installed, and including manufacturer names and model numbers. This method can be particularly risky because it places complete responsibility for equipment performance on the buyer – who is often less knowledgeable on these products than the vendor. Some disadvantages of the proprietary method include:
You have to do your own research. Security cameras and products are complicated – and many brands use confusing terminology in order to make it sound like their systems perform better than advertised. That means even if you do all of your own research and find a system you have complete confidence in, you may still be purchasing a product that won’t perform as advertised.
Proprietary specifications limit competition. Since you’ve included exact specifications, products, and maybe even model #s, there is a finite number of vendors who will be able to fulfill your exact request – which severely limits competition and almost always results in increased costs.
Another method used for RFPs is the Descriptive Method. While this gives the buyer some control over the type of equipment being installed, it allows the vendor more flexibility in product selection. While this may increase competition and in turn lower costs, this method isn’t without its disadvantages:
Descriptive RFPs can be time-consuming. This method requires the project manager to provide a detailed specification of each component, which could potentially be a waste of time considering there are trustworthy vendors who can provide that type of information for no additional fee (many provide free consultations).
Many buyers lack the technical knowledge to form a descriptive RFP. Unless you’ve worked with various brands of security cameras and installed them yourself (and perhaps went to school for some certifications), odds are you’re going to be out of your depth when it comes to writing a detailed description of exactly what your facility needs in terms of security and surveillance.
While it may be clear that there are more cons to writing an RFP due to the complex nature of security products and the amount of time it takes to write one, the Performance Method would be the method we’d most recommend if your company requires RFPs. Using this method, the buyer describes the desired end result but gives the vendor almost complete control over how this result will be accomplished. This method can result in a variety of creative solutions and allow vendors to compete for prices. However, the performance method isn’t without its drawbacks:
You’ll achieve the same result as you would consulting with a security company with no RFP but waste more time. If your company requires you to submit an RFP, the performance method is fine. But if it isn’t a requirement, you’ll end up wasting more time writing and submitting proposals than you would if you had just researched various security companies and consulted with them directly.
Evaluating proposals can become very complicated. Since you’re leaving creative control to the vendors, you’ll likely receive a wide variety of different proposals with many different products, specifications, price ranges, and suggestions – all of which you’ll have to sort through and pick out the best. If you have limited technical knowledge of security cameras, you could be fooled by a company that offers you the cheapest system.
Avoiding the RFP Process
Skipping the Request-for-Proposal (RFP) process and considering a more organic solution can be a good choice for a number of reasons. While it obviously eliminates a lot of time forming a complex proposal, there are a number of other arguments for avoiding the RFP process altogether:
RFP requirements outline the what and how, but skip the why. Advising on strategy is one of the greatest values a good security consultant can provide, but when you use the RFP process, you’re skipping this step entirely.
RFPs never include enough detail. While you may have written a 36-page document detailing the exact equipment, specifications, and manner of installation your company requires, you’ll never provide enough detail to provide actionable information to a potential vendor. A single document will never be able to effectively communicate exactly what your facility needs and you’ll end up consulting with various security companies while trying to work out the nitty-gritty details – which you were trying to avoid in the first place by writing an RFP.
Evaluating proposals will be like comparing apples to oranges. Since you can’t possibly convey enough detail in your RFP to completely satisfy any security vendor, you’ll end up getting proposals that are all over the map. For example, you’ll receive project estimates that range from $X to $5X to $20X. These budgets are neither useful nor actionable because you should never be evaluating vendors solely on budget in the first place.
Many good vendors won’t participate in the RFP process. For good reason, since the RFP process typically yields tons of mostly useless proposals. The purpose of submitting an RFP is to find the best vendor, but if a service provider is already in-demand you’ll be battling it out with shops who need the work – not the very best teams.
Summing it up + Industry Example
If you consider all of the factors, just because a company accepts your proposal often doesn’t mean they are the best fit for the job. In fact, it can often mean the exact opposite. By avoiding the RFP process altogether, you will save time and money and also have the opportunity to receive a more informed understanding of what the project will look like upon completion – considering you go through the right channels and consult with trusted vendors.
For example, we recently received a 36-page long Request-for-Proposal that included 64 cameras and additional components in what would have amounted to a huge job for our company. However, in the proposal, they not only included products we don’t support but also failed to realize they didn’t request nearly enough storage– i.e. Three 4TB hard drives aren’t enough storage for 64 4K and 2K resolution security cameras. That means if a vendor ends up accepting their RFP, the company that submitted the proposal could be out of luck when they quickly run out of storage.
Consult with a Security Expert Today
Don’t just take our word for it, ask for a free consultation. Just because you can type up a 50-page document outlining every detail of your project, doesn’t mean you should. Consult with one of our experienced certified technicians today, for free, and you’ll have the opportunity to explain your security goals and budget. Afterward, you’ll have the opportunity for us to come out for a site survey and provide you with suggestions on how to meet your goals and budget.
One of our technicians, led by Johnny Beagle, will assist you every step of the way. We will start by giving you a free site survey, which helps us understand the best possible solution for you. Next, one of our technicians will walk you through what kind of cameras would work best for your steel mill.
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