As a transit agency employee, you get to experience the ins and outs of just about every department, from maintenance, cleaning, accounting, sometimes even as a driver. In fact, you’re probably involved in the decision-making but also tasked with the follow-through of nearly every project. You know what works well for your agency and what needs improvement.Your agency has recently decided to upgrade the transportation scheduling and dispatching software and you are now tasked with writing the RFP for vendor responses. As you know, not all RFP’s are the same and your transit agency has unique requirements that may not be covered in the reference RFPs you have on hand. As a transit software solution provider and a team who has responded to many RFPs and bids ourselves, we have compiled the following tips to help make the entire RFP process a win-win experience.
From the very beginning, you will want to involve all decision-makers and stakeholders. Think about each department and the people who will be using the new software, and get them in a room to discuss their requirements, wants and needs. We cannot stress this enough - RFP’s cannot be written in a silo. There is great risk in not having buy-in and support as it can cause a hold-up in the execution of the implementation later on. Identify individuals in your organization that are ‘champions’ in terms of overall knowledge, willingness to find solutions and desire to achieve success.
2. Realistic Goals
It is very tempting to set lofty goals or as we call it, asking for the “kitchen sink”. After all, you want to work with the very best vendor and it seems comforting to set high expectations with the hopes a vendor can accommodate them all. Try instead to set goals that are within the scope of your agency’s functional needs and budget. Be sure to have your transit RFP specification category contain an overview of who your agency is, what your challenges are, and what you would like to see as the desired outcome(s) of the bid/RFP. Also, specifically detail out what you are looking for in a response. For example, set definitions, so vendors understand the difference between computer-aided or assisted dispatch and fully automated, continuous real-time scheduling and dispatching solutions.
3. The Selection Process
When evaluating prospective providers, it will be important to focus on the following core factors:
FUNCTIONALITY: This is in regards to their flexibility, platform requirements, customer service and reporting. Does the potential transit vendor offer the necessary employee infrastructure to support your agency? This is the first step in weeding out the wrong providers. Since technology is constantly changing, ask the vendor for their soon-to-be launched products as well. What is the next big thing that they are working on? You will want to be covered, so ask for pricing on these items before it hits the market.
AFFORDABILITY: You will be keenly aware of your budget. However, there are other factors you should consider when reviewing cost. For example, does the potential vendor offer an all-inclusive pricing option? Will your agency need to make capital investments in hardware in order to take advantage of the software? Don’t forget about maintenance and support costs as these may sneak up on you. Is the vendor raising these costs annually or holding them steady for the length of the contract and perhaps beyond that?
Ask the right questions up front and your agency will be positioned well when making the decision for your transit software provider.
DUE DILIGENCE: Ask for more than just 3-5 references, set the bar high in this area. Are there dozens of agencies willing to testify to the strength of the company you are selecting? Also, allow the vendor to submit additional information with their proposal response. For example, 74% of all new marketing is in the format of short-form videos. Let the vendor submit this type of testimonial with their proposal response on a USB or other fare media.
The Best RFP Ever
Lastly, take the pressure off yourself. RFP’s are meant to invite dialogue so there’s no need to stress if every detail isn’t captured. The mark of a great partner will be the quality of the questions they ask in return. If those questions are smart and get more refined along the process, then you know they understand your needs. In fact, that is the recipe for all great partnerships – anticipating and acting upon each other’s needs.
If you are in need of a partner to help you with your transit scheduling software and solutions, consider requesting a free demo of our Demand Response Software today.
About the Author
Read Ecolane's blog articles for perspective, opinion and information on transit and paratransit issues.