Once you’ve written your transportation software RFP, your work isn’t done.
In fact, it’s probably half the battle. Because naturally, now you must choose a partner — no small task in itself!
Hopefully, your public transit agency will find itself in a situation where you have multiple bids to review. That’s the goal of an RFP after all! But once they come rolling in, how do you know which software partner is going to be the right fit for you?
Let’s try to guide you through the process to help you make the best decision.
First, a quick review on RFPs.
What Is A Public RFP?
A request for proposal (RFP) is a business document that announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete it. Government (public) entities must use RFPs for projects, while many private entities follow suit.
Most organizations launch projects using RFPs. When your organization receives the proposals, you will then be responsible for evaluating the feasibility of the bids submitted as well as the financial health of the bidding software companies, and each bidder’s ability to undertake and successfully complete the project. These are the overall concerns you must address when choosing a partner. But when it comes to public transit agencies, we can get a lot more specific.
Speaking of which, let’s clarify public vs. private RFPs.
Public vs. Private RFPs
There are numerous differences between public and private RFPs, but to keep things simple, let’s break it down this way…
Public RFPs are for public entities that must be completely transparent with their business operations to assure the public that their tax dollars are being spent appropriately. As the name suggests, private RFPs often keep their purchasing activities strictly confidential. They have no requirements to publicize business practices or offer any transparency to their evaluation criteria.
The public RFP process is also much more regulated, with standardized formats that must be followed with certain legal documents and disclosures. Private sector bids don’t need to meet any government standards, as companies typically handle their own risk management and financial due diligence.
Government entities often must give preferential treatment to certain businesses over others (small and minority-owned businesses, for example) to help level the playing field. Meanwhile, private RFPs have no such restrictions and can choose the vendor that most closely meets their goals.
Lastly, public RFPs are also often subject to delays thanks to the nature of bureaucracy. Public sector applicants must have their bids in on time to meet procurement requirements, whereas the private sector may have some wiggle room for late submissions.
What To Look For In A Software Partner
Once you’ve received responses to your RFP, you need to make sure you choose the best public transportation scheduling and dispatching software. Here are the core factors you’re going to want to evaluate.
First, weed out the pretenders. Immediately look for a vendor that offers the necessary employed infrastructure to support your agency. Is their software flexible? Does it meet your platform requirements? Are the customer service and reporting standards modern? Are they constantly evolving their product with constant updates in the pipeline?
These are important questions to ask upfront. Your transit software must be conveniently accessible anywhere on different devices. It should also improve your agency’s productivity and on-time performance. Otherwise, what solution is it really providing?
Regarding customer service, you need the platform to work perfectly right from start-up. Any hiccup will impact your service levels. To avoid these issues, look for a vendor with a proven track record of providing superior after-sales support.
Lastly, your software should be able to significantly improve your operational efficiency. Find the comprehensive reporting features that your agency needs — the vendor should not be one-size-fits-all; it must understand that the needs of every agency are different and be nimble enough to meet yours.
2. Do Your Due Diligence
Don’t just trust your vendor’s word, ask for references. In fact, it’s even better if they have them provide some upfront. It shows both that they care about being transparent and also have a track record for success.
If you can find agencies willing to discuss the strength of the vendor you’re considering, you may have yourselves a winner.
Of course, you’re well aware of your budget. It should be top of mind during your decision process. However, consider a few other factors when you review a vendor’s cost.
For example, does the vendor offer an all-inclusive pricing option or just a la carte? Will you need to make capital investments in hardware in order to implement the software? Will there be additional maintenance and support costs?
We know adding high-quality software can be expensive, but it will save your company three times as much as what you’d pay for the software — you come out way ahead in the long run. It’s not about the price upfront, it’s about what you can save over time.
As for quality, remember that “cheapest” is not the same as “most affordable.” Make sure to read into the bid to gain a clear understanding of what is provided in the pricing to see the full scope of your potential return. Otherwise, additional expenses will creep in later on and you’ll find that the “cheapest” option wasn’t really cheapest after all. You get what you pay for when it comes to a software partner!
4. Choose Software Built Specifically For Paratransit Agencies
To get the best fit for your public paratransit agency, you should choose a vendor that specializes in your industry. Ecolane’s industry-leading Evolution product was built from the ground up to solve the specific needs of paratransit agencies.
If you want a software provider that can:
- Solve scheduling issues
- Provide real-time flexibility
- Offer enhanced data & reporting
Then look no further than Ecolane Evolution. Request a demo today to get started.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.