It is a requirement by the federal government that companies must submit an RFP to ensure transparency in any procurement process using federal funds to pay for the project. Each Federal Transit Administration (FTA) region has its review process and its unique rules and requirements.
The Pain of the RFP Process
Whether you look at things from the supplier's or the buyer's perspective, you will notice that the main pain points are the same for both, but just seen from a different angle. Some of these pain points include:
1. Time-consuming processes
As a transit manager, you can't have all the knowledge of the needs of every single department in the organization. That's why you will always spend a lot of time researching.
Most of the time, you will ask a consultant to help or you may make specifications together with the supplier of the first choice. This makes the RFP process cumbersome as it becomes consultant-driven or it becomes tailored to the needs of the supplier you asked for help.
Before you write and administer an RFP, a significant amount of preparation must take place. It may be necessary to complete a Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process before developing an RFP. This will consume a lot of time before you come up with the final RFP.
2. Poor communication
The RFP process is not a one-person-show. You'll have to deal with the requester's needs, suppliers' offers, and stakeholders' interests. It is very difficult to strike a balance between all these requirements and at the end of the day, it becomes exhausting.
In the process of dealing with all these people, the problem of communication will inevitably arise. The individuals requesting may end up making unclear and unspecific demands, the stakeholders may be slow in giving their views, and the suppliers may give vague responses. All of these factors will lead to stress and chaos in the organization.
3. Choosing the right supplier
When choosing the right supplier, select one with the best offer and delivers supplies on time and with a proven track record. Ask for multiple reference cases including those that similar in size to your agency. Stakeholders often prefer certain suppliers and it is difficult to convince them that a well-structured RFP process will bring value for the company. Even if you manage to convince them, the stakeholders will still want the evaluation and award criteria to favor their preferred suppliers.
What Happens After Receiving a Response?
Once the respondents submit their responses, the review committee will have to evaluate them and then invite the suppliers for a demo. You need to set a reasonable deadline for the responses you need, and you have to consider only the agencies that meet the deadlines. This is a very tedious process.
As you can see, the RFP process is very lengthy and costly. It takes longer to write and to determine which providers qualify according to the given criteria. Building the RFP and the soliciting responses may take 6-12 months.
GSA is Another Option
General Services Administration (GSA) is the centralized authority that provides support for product and service procurement through GSA contract. It also develops policies and regulations that govern procurement. The entities that are eligible for GSA include cities, counties, state agency, federal agencies and transit agencies—virtually any agency that requires FTA approval to expand funds. Such examples of a GSA include:
- State and local entities - Schedules 70 and 84
- Monthly and per trip SaaS or lease options
- National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance Contract (NCPA)
- Government contractors that can buy on behalf of the executive and federal agencies
- Mixed ownership government corporations
- Government of the District of Columbia
- Eligible non-governmental organizations and international organizations
GSA spends the money that the federal government allows for transit. Once you're approved on the schedule, you don't have to go to RFP and you can go off the schedule. GSA's contract shows that a company is in good standing and can deliver the product or service to the government. Additionally, prices offered on GSA contracts are fair and reasonable, and they comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
Ecolane is the Relief to Your Pains
Ecolane is the industry-leading provider of modern and intelligent, web-based transit scheduling software. The company is on the GSA 70 schedule, and they spend the money that the federal government allots for transit. This means that once you're approved through the schedule, you don't have to go through RFP, and can purchase off of the schedule. Dealing with Ecolane reduces the evaluation cycle because it eliminates the lengthy and complex RFP process. Getting a GSA schedule is a complex process, but Ecolane simplifies this because they have already gone through the RFP process.
There are multiple vehicles to purchase Ecolane beyond the standard RFP process. These include NCPA, GSA 70, statewide procurement, Monthly and per trip SaaS or lease options, and sole source method. The sole source method is the case in which Ecolane is the only ones who have what you need so there is no need to go to the market but instead work with Ecolane directly.
Contact a business development director today to find out which is the best option for you.
About the Author:
Rex is a 30+ year veteran of information technology in passenger transportation, and has experience working for public agencies, private operators and software developers. His astute approach to technology deployment focuses on both the end user and the passenger. His breadth of experience spans nearly every area of information technology, fixed route, paratransit and shuttle services, including server maintenance, network administration, vendor relations, On-Board technology, system integration, radio/phone, GPS/AVL management, video systems, support, safety, and more. He is a former member of the International Rodeo Committee for the American Public Transit Association where he served as the technical liaison and development advisor. This familiarity with transit data management offers a unique perspective to transportation, and makes Rex a superior candidate to lead the Ecolane Sales team.