Roundtable Discussion: RFPs

Some of the nation’s top security experts weigh in on strategies to create a successful Request For Proposal


What are the key items and details that an end-user should be looking for in a security systems RFP?

Pearson: As an end-user, the key items and details to some extent depend on the type of RFP being generated. The RFP could be for materials, labor or both; however, most end-users writing an RFP are interested in a turnkey (both material and labor) RFP. Usually the end-user would be using the RFP to get pricing as well as some additional information from the vendor. The end-user should provide the following types of information to the vendors as part of the RFP:
Any laws or guidelines that must be followed;
Expectations such as time tables, time of day when work can be performed, special access issues, project walk through, etc.;
Warranty, quality of work, etc.;
The method of communication desired by the end-user for doing business with the vendor. (The AIA has a document A305 that can be used to collect this type of information);
Permits required for the project; and
Ongoing maintenance costs that might be incurred.

Carter: The best RFPs are the ones where the architect, engineer and CIO have all given their input into how to converge the building’s systems. If you consult experts on all your systems while developing the RFP, you’ll get a cohesive design and a complete systems approach with many benefits to the end-user. My advice is to engage your security integrator while your architect and engineer are designing the building — before they define final building systems, complete drawings and select the contractor. Doing it that way will translate to fewer changes to the project during construction, better use of materials, lower labor costs, better integration, improved delivery time and fewer headaches.

Ahrens: A clear defined scope that identifies the following:
Introduction to the project, the functionality desired, trade references (U.L, etc) and the end-result of the engagement. Contract requirements, insurance/bonding, references, submittal requirements and line-item pricing;
Technical criteria, such as the space required on a hard-drive, redundancy, frame rate and storage; and
Warranty, training, installation requirements and as-built documentation to indicate the installed state of the equipment.

Aggleton: The RFP should be formatted to match the latest CEI numbering scheme and section layout so that candidate contractors can navigate easily and accurately. The document starts with a general description of the project to orient the bidder and permit them to make a quick bidding decision based on size, content, complexity, geography and schedule. Preliminary RFP sections should include descriptions of existing conditions, standards to be met, related work, support service requirements (e.g., commissioning, testing, training, warranty and maintenance) and proposal requirements.

What key items and details are not generally included in a security systems RFP but should be?

Carter:
Today’s physical security systems can utilize the building’s IP infrastructure and can be integrated with voice, data, public address, climate controls and other technology. That being said, many RFPs continue to look at these as individual systems while not leveraging the benefits of a cohesive design/build approach. There are significant initial and lifecycle cost savings in the coordination of these systems. Providing a coordinated design/build package covering all of these systems would reduce issues during construction, provide better performance during occupancy and save end-users money in the long run.

Aggleton: The RFP should be very clear on the delineation of work included in the contract and work by others that requires coordination; for example, door hardware being installed under the general contract but being connected and put into operation by the security contractor. Often missing from an RFP are clear criteria for what constitutes system acceptance, the requirements for submission of verified as-built drawings before system acceptance and the qualifying date for the start of warranty services.

Pearson: There are a few items that are missing in most RFPs, such as providing full detail of the project and how the RFP fits into the overall plan. For example, an end-user may have to request additional funding when the cost exceeds the planned estimated cost. The end-user’s management may need to approve or modify the project based on some information that is gained during the RFP process. The end-user should request the vendor provide any inclusions and exclusions they would suggest and what value they add. The end-user needs to know which items the vendor keeps in inventory.
Ahrens: It varies, however, the items I most commonly find delinquent is the as-built documentation and training requirements for the systems being installed. Grounding, electrical isolation and protection for exterior equipment are also items that are not generally included.

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