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I hab a c0de ib my n0de. le Sigh.

Today was a mixture of proposal reading and meetings...

I spent most of the morning poring over the four responses to Hartford's RF[I/Q/R] (it's a long story that's resulted in my calling the document an "RFx") for a firm/consortium to build and operate a wireless network to provide free universal WiFi access to citizens and visitors. Two respondents made creditable attempts to answer the RFx, including SWAGs at how to put low cost PCs and training into the hands of the residents. One response was a laundry list of the carrier's wired and wireless offerings (um, that's not what we asked for). The last was about 200 pages and miraculously content free. Put together by a consortium of vendors, it made almost no attempt to address the project in any way. At least 100 pages was taken up by marketing glossies from the WiFi hardware vendor.

The late-morning departmental budget meeting (with the Boss and several of my fellow managers) went quickly and well. We have a compiled budget list, and have generally ranked our projects/activities. Only one of mine is "below the line" – we compiled projects/activities in a list ranked from top-to-bottom, with the most important at the top. Along with the list was a cumulative total of cost with a big, fat yellow line at the dollar amount of our projected budget. Anything below that line constitutes an increase and we have to write up a document called a Decision Packet to make our case to the City Council for the cash for that project.

The Boss and I then scooted for City Hall where we met with the other members of the wireless project team to discuss the RFx and determine our strategy going forward. I'm sure I'll have more to say once the selection process has progressed. I'm pleased that we had at least two solid responses.

This evening I finished reading and rating proposals by architectural firms to do a study/design to reuse the now vacant Academy School. I had six of the twelve responses to left to read, and I got through all of them. I filled out, PDFed, and emailed off my rating sheet to the Town person handling the RFP. Some time next week I'll get to participate in a day-long series of interviews with the top-scoring firms. Here too there were a number of good responses – and a couple real dogs. One wonders why a firm would put time into crafting an RFP response if they weren't actually going to pay attention to what the RFP was asking for?

Public procurement – a marvel of finely honed process. Actually, I've learned something valuable from the Academy RFP: stipulate page limits for the responses! Respondents could have appendices ad infinitum, but the body of their response was limited to eight pages. I need remember that for the next time I put something out to bid in Hartford.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
half_elf_lost
Jan. 18th, 2006 03:37 am (UTC)
One wonders why a firm would put time into crafting an RFP response if they weren't actually going to pay attention to what the RFP was asking for?

Uhm...because they only want to do what they want to do, not what you want to do. Just think how good they'd be at listening halfway through the project if you chose them!
netcurmudgeon
Jan. 18th, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
I guess that's just foreign to my mindset. Having grown up in a family that made its living creating things people wanted (landscapes), its ingrained to pay attention to "what does the customer want".

Also, I have a sense that some of these architects were just rolling the dice – put a couple of hours into a boiler plate proposal and see if it gets you anything: not much invested, not much lost. "Trolling", of a sort.
also_huey
Jan. 18th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
I'm on the other side of that equation. Last year, I was on teams that wrote three different multi-million-dollar proposals. As for folks who have crap proposals, either they didn't really want the proposal that badly, or else that's just a lousy technical sales group. You think about how hard some car salesmen will work to sell a car that's going to net them a couple thousand dollars, there should be a couple orders of magnitude more work involved in writing a proposal that should net a couple hundred thousand, right? Put it in terms of 'worker' and 'manager': suppose a 'worker' is $50,000/yr and a 'manager' is $100,000/yr, so for a proposal that's worth a half a million dollars of profit, you can spend one manager-year and three worker-years on a proposal and STILL make a quarter of a million dollars.

Ten-million-dollar proposal last summer, we had about thirty people involved, most of whom worked for at least a week, and about a third of us worked for a whole month. We answered every single thing in the RFP, point-by-point, and explained how we could do it bigger/better/stronger/faster/more than anybody else, for less money. And? We got the gig.
netcurmudgeon
Jan. 18th, 2006 09:59 pm (UTC)
Ya'know, that's one thing I never did in my years on the reseller side – answer an RFP. I've written a couple, and evaluated a bunch, but I've never been in on a response. Grant writing (at which my track record is "so far, so good!") isn't quite the same thing.

Congrats on the Big Deal. Are you part of implementation, or just pre-sales?
also_huey
Jan. 18th, 2006 10:12 pm (UTC)
Hell no. That wasn't even my team, I just got roped in on three of the proposal tasks that nobody else in the company even understood. The other two proposals I've worked on were actually for my own team's contracts. We mostly do software development, and I do everything except write code: business rules analysis, documentation, design, more documentation, testing & Q/A, more documentation, getting bitched at by the client, more documentation, herding programmers, changing pickup rollers in laserprinters, more documentation, unclogging toilets, tarting up graphics for the sales team, explaining IEEE 12207 to people who ask "documentation? What's that supposed to look like?", more documentation.

Mostly analysis, design, documentation, and testing, though. My team's structure looks like this: Brenda designs databases, programmers write code, and Huey does every other damn thing.
netcurmudgeon
Jan. 19th, 2006 02:53 am (UTC)
My team's structure looks like this: Brenda designs databases, programmers write code, and Huey does every other damn thing.

Your role sounds like my shop's! Within our organization, the voice division does phones; within the apps division the gov't service team does GIS, the financial systems team deals with financials, the student support service team does ... you guessed it, the student information system; the end user service division handles PC/helpdesk; and my division (Tech Services) handles the network and everything else that no one knows where to put!

...This has eased a bit now that the apps division has a systems integration team handling servers and the server/application "mate up", but as the ongoing budget work shows, Tech Services is still a catch-all. And I wouldn't have it any other way. If we were in a tidy little pigeon hole, that would be boring as Hell! :-)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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