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Themed Entertainment: the RFP/RFQ – The Basic Tool of Project Development

With huge experience in themed entertainment, theme parks and the museums industry, Lisa Thorburn, president of Thorburn Associates, Inc., an Acoustic, audiovisual and Technology Design and Engineering firm with offices in California and North Carolina has strong experience in working on complex attractions industry projects. Here she outlines two of the project manager’s basic tools.

The RFQ (request for quotation/qualifications) and RFP (request for proposal) are basic tools of project development, providing a control for identifying and evaluating designers, contractors and suppliers for a given undertaking. Here, Lisa Thorburn outlines the issuing process and how to use it properly. This is an encapsulation of her popular presentation on the subject given at the InfoComm trade show, where her company, Thorburn Associates, annually presents several hours of educational sessions.

By Lisa Thorburn

The process of RFQ/RFP solicitation takes several forms and a variety of names. In order to fully understand their creation, you must first know what they are and how they differ:

•    Request for Quotation (RFQ): A legal document requesting pricing only, for a specified good or service.

•    Request for Qualifications (RFQ): A legal document requesting the proposer to document qualifications to perform a specific task. This RFQ is typically used to generate a short list from which the owner will then solicit quotes leading to the award of a contract. Unlike the Request for Quotation, no pricing is provided.

•    Request for Proposal (RFP): A legal document requesting that an offer be made by a proposer, which allows for negotiations after a proposal has been received but before award of the contract for goods and services is executed. The RFP should include both scope and price of the project.

•    Invitation for Bid (IFB): A request for pricing for a specified good or service that has been advertised in some manner (ie, web, newspaper, personal request).

Designing an appropriate and goal-oriented document of this kind takes both time and planning. To get back the best and most accurate quotes or proposals, you must be willing to provide all of the information known about the project. This is no time to withhold facts – the contractor or vendor must be fully briefed on what you seek to accomplish in order to properly assess and communicate their ability and cost to complete your project. If you have drawings already available, even if they are basic sketches, provide them. The old adage, “an image is worth a thousand words, ” really holds true during a design or creative process.

If you have a pre-existing facility, offer a walk-through so that everyone is able to see and assess exactly what will be needed and perhaps even uncover some potential problems that might cause cost overruns if not addressed initially. Even though this may be a time-consuming step, it is well worth it.

Be as thorough as possible in explaining how you will run the bidding and selection processes. Clearly laying out the steps the contractor will need to complete and the procedures you will take in reviewing bids will enable the contractor to more readily provide the information you need. Setting up a specific format for bids will standardize the bidding process and simplify the task of reviewing on your end.

Getting the word out in the first place is of primary importance. Some trade associations, such as TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) offer RFP posting services; check with those that serve your industry.

Once all the responses have come in, your selection process should follow a logical and ordered approach. Apply “bid leveling” first: vet each candidate’s bid by asking the following three questions:

•    Was everything that was requested, provided?
•    Did the bidder meet all of the qualifications?
•    Is the price really based on the scope of work? In other words, did they miss something?

During the evaluation process you will likely be looking for the lowest responsible bid or quote. That will be the bid that offers the lowest cost (either in a total cost concept, or just solely based on price), while meeting all the specifications, terms and conditions of the request. However, don’t rely on numbers alone. Be sure to evaluate the financial and practical ability of the contractor to perform the work, based on past performance as well as their compliance with all your requirements concerning the purchasing process.

Once you have selected a contractor, your research and planning will begin to pay off as you move towards a successful and smooth completion of your project.

Lisa Thorburn is president of Thorburn Associates, Inc., an Acoustic and Technology Design and Engineering firm with offices in California and North Carolina.

See also
Steve Thorburn is the New President-Elect of TEA
Eight Highly Practical Sessions for Designers, Facility Managers, Developers & Architects from One of InfoComm’s Top-Rated Educators, Thorburn Associates
Sound Out the Possibilities in the Immersive Audio Experience at InfoComm 08

 

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