To start, a good RFP needs to have a clearly-defined scope. According to Brian Hancock, director, A/V Practice at TechKnowledge Consulting Corporation, in order for an RFP to work, it needs to be written in language that can be understood by everyone in the business. Combined with today’s challenges of understanding new technologies, the attention to detail that accounts for every circumstance needs to be tempered with the clarity that prevents it from becoming an overwhelming document. That balance needs to be reached while also including all pertinent details regarding the potential bidder’s certifications, how realistic their timetables are and how to handle intellectual property.
For Randy S. Tritz, CTS-D, Partner, Director at the Chicago office of design consultant Shen Milsom & Wilke, the key to a great RFP is to identify and understand the client’s needs. “That becomes the roadmap that generates the RFP itself,” he says. “If you don’t understand those needs and cannot articulate those needs appropriately, somebody responding to the RFP is only going to be confused.”
An RFP’s documentation has two components: written prose and a set of conceptual drawings that are quite detailed. “The level of detail put in to both sides is paramount to success,” says Tritz. “A high level of grammatical skill is needed to effectively explain the concept.” To depict that concept graphically, the drawings need to be in sync with the written portion. If the person generating the equipment list, or the written prose of the RFP, is on a different wavelength from the person doing the drawings, that leads to problems. “All too frequently in this business the two are not in sync,” says Tritz.
The team creating an RFP needs to be on the same wavelength, so it will help if there is a framework for the industry in general to be able to speak the same language. Standards are a relatively new luxury for a contemporary A/V installer. A/V is a distinctive field because installers have been integrating for years without a defined set of standards. “It has been a very subjective industry,” says Hancock. “What might be good on one project may not be good on another. It’s difficult to go in to a project without laying out a playing field that everybody is comfortable with.”
Since 2009, InfoComm has established a number of standards to address this problem. “Now we have ANSI-approved standards that include expected codes and everything necessary in this environment,” says Hancock. “Specifically the 1M-2009 deals with audio coverage in enclosed listener areas. There is a standard for systems design coordination processes, another one for projected image and system contrast ratio.”
In order to keep up with the rapid pace of technology and products on the market, timeliness is a very strong component of a solid RFP. Typically in the construction process, the technology portion of the RFP is delayed from the construction document or construction RFP by virtue of the fact that the technology moves so fast. “If an A/V or technology specification