Government, education and nonprofit agencies typically have two options when it comes to purchasing a phone system and satisfying their competitive solicitation requirement:
- Request for Proposal (RFP)
While both options can satisfy a competitive solicitation requirement, only one can guarantee agencies end up with a Mitel phone system of their choosing.
Let’s look quickly at the competitive solicitation requirement, and then we'll compare the two options.
Why do competitive Solicitation Requirements Exist?
Because government, education and nonprofit agencies are publicly funded, they have a standardized process for making large purchases. Statutes exist that require these organizations to make competitive solicitations for purchases over a certain amount.
Publicly funded agencies must go out for competitive solicitations to provide companies an equal opportunity for their business and to document how the money they are given is being spent. Traditionally, a Request for Proposal (RFP) has been the route publicly funded agencies follow. In recent years, Sourcewell cooperative contracts have become a popular alternative. Let’s look at both:
Request for Proposal (RFP)
The RFP process is designed to create an opportunity for companies to compete for the work that is available. Investopedia defines it this way:
"A Request for Proposal for a specific program may require the company to review the competitive solicitations to not only examine their feasibility, but also the health of the company and the ability of the bidder to actually do what is proposed. The RFP may provide detailed information on the project or program, but can leave leeway for the bidder to fill in the blanks with how the project would be completed or program run."
Challenges RFPs Present
Though the RFP process was designed with good intentions, it presents some challenges for the agencies needing to make purchases. First, RFPs can be limiting in terms of quality responses. Responding to an RFP is time-consuming. It can often lead to the following:
- The best businesses choosing not to respond
- Businesses only responding if they see a significant benefit and/or high chances of winning the competitive solicitations
- Those that do respond putting little energy into their proposal
The way the RFP process is designed, there is no way to guarantee that a business who provides the product or service you desire will respond.
Secondly, and more importantly, this process is very time consuming for publicly funded agencies. In a standard RFP process, each agency will move through the following steps:
- Identify potential providers
- Develop equipment and service specifications
- Create and advertise RFP
- Receive responses to RFP
- Evaluate proposals
- Award lowest competitive solicitation
- Offer a protest period
- Have equipment delivered and installed
- Review and maintain contract throughout its term
We’ve found this process typically takes a minimum of three-six months, but can take up to six-nine months.
Sourcewell: A Better Solution
As an alternative to the traditional RFP process, we recommend Sourcewell. Sourcewell contracts effectively eliminate the RFP challenges I've outlined above. They take the burden of RFPs off government, education and nonprofit agencies by conducting their own RFP process and awarding vendors a national contract.
With a national contract, vendors can provide goods and services at a pre-negotiated rate, without requiring individual organizations and entities to move through the RFP process.
How the Process Compares
With Sourcewell, the time and effort put toward the purchasing process is significantly reduced for government, education and nonprofit agencies using cooperative contracts. Instead of the time-consuming, multi-step process listed above, only four steps have to be completed.
Here's what the process look like, using a phone system as an example:
- Become a member of Sourcewell (if you aren’t already)
- Begin a purchasing conversation with trusted local Mitel dealer to determine your specific phone system needs
- Indicate that you want Sourcewell pricing; Cut PO
- Have equipment delivered and installed
Sourcewell contracts require fewer steps, take less time and take most of the heavy-lifting off your shoulders. The work is done by your Mitel dealer/technology services provider (or has already been done by Sourcewell).
Sourcewell Is Here to Help
I know it might sound too good to be true, but Sourcewell is the real deal. Sourcewell figured out a way to leverage the buying power of government, education and nonprofit organizations on a national level.
Here are three important things to know about Sourcewell:
- Membership is no-cost, no-obligation and no-liability for eligible agencies (government, education or nonprofit agencies nationwide)
- Sourcewell works in the background; the purchasing agency typically never communicates with Sourcewell
- The Sourcewell contract can satisfy your competitive solicitations requirements, and your organization will have all the documentation it needs.
Find out more information about Sourcewell and how these cooperative contracts can satisfy your RFP in this free eBook: