How to Tackle a Parking RFP: End User Perspective
We’re wrapping up this thrilling series with our take on the end user perspective of the RFP process. Here you’ll read the good, the bad, and of course our own musings on how to make life easier as a user of the product or service purchased for your parking business.
Qualifying vendors: Everyone has a unique business and team. Your organization might be extremely environmentally conscious; or maybe empowering staff with training and knowledge is paramount. Perhaps you only buy local, or only from suppliers who are equally as concerned about workplace diversity. Whatever the requirements are, a procurement team can add questions to the RFP to filter out ineligible respondents. Only responses from qualified vendors are passed along for consideration.
Qualifying products/services: Are there certain technical requirements your project has? For example, the solution must meet regulatory guidelines, or have a specific feature like a Windows smartphone app. By detailing what the minimum standards are, the procurement department can vet potential vendors in an unbiased way. Vendors are also aware of what products and services are needed so they can clearly explain how the proposed solution meets the needs outlined in the RFP.
Staying on time and on budget: Having someone keep an eye on costs and make sure the project moves forward on schedule is a great asset. A procurement specialist can likely even take the stress of contract negotiation off your plate.
Expert advice: Get access to experts on legal clauses, industry standards and best practices, and contract negotiation – and that’s just internally. With an RFP you also get access to multiple experts (the suppliers) in supplying the solution you need. Use their suggestions to craft a well-rounded solution, or incorporate new tech you didn’t know applied to parking. Rely on the collective wisdom of suppliers to guide you in the right direction.
Access to products/services: Sometimes, an RFP will give you access to new technology you would otherwise not be able to purchase or offer to your customers. A lowest-cost RFP may let you install pay-by-plate tech and offer people using your parking facility new mobile payment methods. Win-win!
Extras: Often, respondents will offer you products or services outside the realm of what you asked for. Sometimes you’ll see a solution is complex and needs multiple components, each one of which increases the cost and complexity of the solution. Knowing your budget will help curb impulsive or not-well-thought-out purchases. Another drawback is the up-sell pressure that a successful RFP respondent may employ once you’ve committed to a contract. Stay open minded about suggestions (they are the experts!), but firm if you know that piece is not currently feasible.
You don’t know what you don’t know: Computer processing speed doubles every 18 months and technology is advancing at an exponential rate (remember Moore’s law?[i]). Even if you follow all the biggest players and scour social media daily, it’s extremely difficult to keep up with new technology. Self-driving cars and smart cities are just a few of the phenomena we’re seeing impacting the parking industry so far. I can’t even imagine when artificial intelligence and the hyperloop and implantable devices[ii] start impacting the industry. The point here is that you might not know the latest parking trends, the latest tech, or how they fit together. And if you don’t, how do you know what solutions to look for in an RFP response?
Complexity of the need: Purchasing a parking solution is complex. What technology will you use? What hardware do you need? How do these things work together? Does this integrate with existing software and equipment? All these things add up when looking to purchase a new parking management system. It’s hard enough to stay abreast of them yourself, let alone try to explain every interconnected piece to a procurement specialist (who could easily not be a parking expert). This can easily lead procurement staff to ask the wrong questions and evaluate responses based on incorrect assumptions.
Lost opportunity for supplier relationships: By running the RFP through a procurement department, the chance to meet and get to know vendors is removed. Although it’s debatable if this is a good thing, it definitely has some negative side effects. Users can’t ask potential vendors questions and get to know the product options. They can’t “kick the tires” of products or take anything for a test drive, because as we all know, the communication (and influence) channels are closed during the RFP process. And this definitely doesn’t lead to a supplier intimately getting to know user needs, never mind the potential to do some product development together. An out of the box solution is almost always provided, even though all parties would benefit from some amount of customization.
This can certainly be argued from both sides of the coin. On one hand, the cost of the RFP process can be massive – negating and savings obtained[iii]. Also, the procurement department is a constant middleman, presenting an opportunity for miscommunication or unnecessary delays. On the other hand, having an expert save time sifting through minimum requirements is just like having human resources pre-screen resumes – invaluable. It also helps identify legal concerns and do a risk analysis. Plus it often proves to be a money saver for organizations.
Being open and transparent about your current situation, needs, and desired outcome will help to minimize the negative impacts of an RFP for the end user. A meeting with the end user before a purchase could prove invaluable for both the vendors and the procurement team – as both should genuinely be focused on this set of users. Are you flat out looking for an alternative to the RFP process? Check out a few options in part 2 of this series.
Well folks, I genuinely appreciate you sticking with us in this series! It’s a topic we experience the effects of regularly, but rarely take the time to think of from anyone else’s point of view. Hopefully these articles helped you do just that! As always, we welcome your feedback and would love to hear what other advice you’d offer in the parking RFP process.
[ii] Think this is just sci-fi? Check these out: https://wtvox.com/3d-printing/top-10-implantable-wearables-soon-body/