To Keep Costs Down on RFPs, Avoid Mission Creep

As investigative agencies prepare to replace aging software with new software, they are often aiming to accomplish three major goals.

  1. They want software that is faster, more stable or more compatible with other new hardware or software entering the office.
  2. They want to gain new capabilities to allow their investigators to become more efficient, and to better align the software with any changes they’ve made since they last procured software.
  3. They want to purchase software that has higher levels of data security, with guarantees that the software will be kept up-to-date to prevent any future security holes from causing data leakage.

There may be a couple of important agency-specific goals as well.  For instance, an agency may want to bring specific historical information into the new software, or have the software pull data from another piece of software the agency uses.  Depending on the agency, these goals may be critical to the team’s success.

But as teams tasked with product acquisition consider what to put into an RFP, dozens of secondary goals are considered.  Team members think of individual situations where a piece of functionality would have been helpful, or helpful processes other agencies use to accomplish some goals of their own.  As these good ideas get added to the requirements list, the team experiences mission creep.  Their original mission, to purchase a product that accomplishes specific goals, is replaced by a document that seeks the perfect product.

Of course, every agency’s perfect product is slightly different – this means that the only way to acquire a product that meets each and every goal imagined during the brainstorming is to build a custom product.  This is dangerous for a number of reasons. It’s extremely expensive, because costs can’t be shared among agencies. This custom product will not have been tested by any other agency before being deployed, which can lead to headaches that can last for years.  There’s also no way to know how all of the features will work together out in the field, since nobody has used these exact features together.

Ultimately, after the proposals are received by the agency, they will discover they have suffered from mission creep when they see price estimates that far exceed their budgets along with unacceptable timelines.  The RFP will then be re-issued, with a streamlined set of requirements that can fit within the agency’s budget and timeline restraints.  Many months, and many hours of work, are wasted in this process.

How can your agency avoid the pitfalls of mission creep when preparing its RFP?

Stick with the mission – identify the primary goals of a product in the RFP as requirements.  If good ideas do arise during discussions which are not essential, do not write them as requirements – instead, ask agencies submitting proposals to detail whether this feature is already available in a product, and how much time and money it would cost to develop if it isn’t present.

Research available products – before building your RFP, take a look at products being used by other agencies to see what features are already available and well-liked by your fellow investigators.  If you have questions for vendors about a specific feature, getting input on those variables before the RFP is formally released may save weeks of acquisition time.  What could have been a 10-minute discussion can turn into a convoluted formal process once the RFP is released, as you may be prohibited from talking directly with software vendors at that point.

Check the GSA Schedules - to get an idea of what your agency’s budget should be, take a look at the pricing of products on the GSA Schedule before preparing your RFP.  GSA Schedule 70 covers software, and state and local agencies can purchase at GSA prices as well.

To learn about how CMTS can help your agency close more cases with a more powerful and efficient case management solution, call us at 919.600.5102 or email Team_CMTS@WingSwept.com.

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