Getting started with a parking management RFP
Parking management RFP – where to start?
Whether you’re looking to put together your first parking management RFP or you’ve done this before, starting with a review of best practices is always a good idea. After all, the quality of your RFP is often reflected back to you in the quality of the proposals you receive.
We’ve responded to a few RFPs in our time, and based on our experience, there are some qualities of an RFP that make it easier to reply with a very specific proposal that reflects exactly what your parking department wants and needs.
1. Be clear about your objectives, goals, and targets
- You’re better off defining the details of the problem you’re trying to solve than you are trying to define the solution you want. Let the proponents match their features to your needs.
- Define your ideal outcomes with numbers if you can. For example, if you want a parking management system to create efficiency so you can reduce your human resource budget by 15%, or if you hope that an LPR system can improve the area your patrol team covers by 50%, include those numbers.
- Prioritize your desired features and consider categorizing them as Priority 1, Priority 2 etc. This helps proponents differentiate between the “must” have and the “should” have features you’re looking for. It also helps them understand your timing and if a staged, multi-year approach would best help you achieve your goals.
2. Don’t ditch the template, but review and reformat it before using it
- Standard statements that often appear in RFP templates from online sources or large procurement departments aren’t always relevant. Proponents might be confused which will lead to questions you’ll need to address later on. Review the template and question your procurement team about any content that is out of context for your parking management RFP.
- Templates can be huge time savers when it comes to legal information and ensuring you have all the practical details all RFPs should have. Especially if you lack experience with RFPs, you should lean on the structure and content of a suitable template.
- Consider reaching out to other parking operations for a sample of an RFP they’ve recently issued and had success with. You can borrow language, ideas, or even entire sections from them. But, it’s not suggested to just “copy and paste” another group’s parking management RFP. Potential proponents might recognize the questions or sections and question if the RFP is being influences by another potential supplier. If they think it is, they might choose not to submit because they think the project is “wired” for another company. You might miss out on a good potential supplier as a result.
3. Be specific about the format you want to receive proposals in
- The format and “feel” of your RFP will often influence the format of the responses you receive. If your RFP is excessively lengthy and wordy for example, proponents might be inclined to respond with the same approach.
- Asking proponents to reply in a very specific structure will make it easier for you to compare one to the other. It is however somewhat limiting for the proponents and might result in you seeing information repeated or slightly out of place because they had something to say but weren’t sure where to fit it in. A combination of a concise structure with one or two sections more “open” strikes a good balance.
- Limiting the page length is a good idea if you expect to receive many responses. It’ll make it easier to get through them and you’re less likely to “glaze over” the ones that you review last.
4. Share your evaluation criteria
- Proponents like to know how you’ll evaluate and score their submissions. It offers them insight into your priorities and gives them a sense of how much to emphasize one section over another. It also helps them determine if they’re a good candidate or not and if they should submit at all.
- If pricing is a factor you need to decide how much information to disclose. Some think sharing your budget in the RFP is a good idea, and others don’t. Decide for yourself or with the help of your procurement department if you have one.
5. Remember, you’re purchasing software
Another important tip is to remember what you’re procuring. Software. Many parking managers aren’t technology experts and the process of procuring software can be more complex than other items and services. And the procurement of any software is made much easier when you are clear in the RFP what system or systems will require integration with the new software. This gives you proposal submissions that you can be confident reflect the reality for implementation and are less likely to need additional budget approvals for “surprise” integration support.