Responding to an RFP is an expensive and time-consuming process. Once your organization has decided to make that investment, it’s important to make sure your proposal is just right. Ambiguities – unclear statements or demands – in the RFP process can derail your success with the following negative consequences:
- Bids rejected for lack of compliance
- Bids less competitive for failure to follow unknown/misunderstood specifications
- Bids open to rejection for other reasons under the cover of ambiguities
In order to make your proposal as effective and competitive as possible, it’s critical to resolve any questionable statements in the RFP before you submit your proposal.
The first step in resolving unclear statements, demands, or terminology is to identify them. There are three main types of RFP ambiguities to watch out for and resolve:
- Terms & Conditions
In order to identify unclear portions of the RFP, you may need to call upon your technical specialists, project managers, and legal counsel to review the request and identify any areas of concern.
Examples of Ambiguities:
- Specification: An RFP for a new piece of technology tells bidders that they can recommend a product that exceeds specifications. In some cases, it’s easy to pick out things that would exceed specifications (e.g.: faster processing speeds or more memory). However, the waters get murky when you consider things like screen size. Would a smaller screen exceed specifications because it’s lighter and easier for employees to transport? Or would a larger screen be a preferred option to avoid taxing employees’ eyes?
- Process: The RFP specifies that all submissions must be made by 5pm on a given date. But the contracting officer is based on the East Coast, the agency is headquartered in Texas, and the work is being performed in California. Which time zone applies?
- Terms & Conditions: The language used in an RFP is the language a contractor will be beholden to once a contract is awarded. Unclear terms and conditions are subject to definition by the contracting officer, not the contractor, so it’s very important to make sure all the legal language is crystal clear before responding to an RFP.
Quick Steps to Respond to Ambiguities in an RFP
- Identify unclear portions of the RFP: Let the experts at your organization review each portion of the RFP and point out any areas of concern.
- Submit questions to the contracting officer: At this stage, it’s important to make sure that your questions are extremely clear to avoid further confusion and get the answers you need to move ahead.
- Follow up with more questions: If the contracting officer’s answers are unclear, you can follow up with additional questions. These may or may not receive answers depending on the timeframe remaining for submissions.
- No response? Consider whether a protest is appropriate.
Bid protests are time-sensitive and costly. In order to make your proposal competitive from the start, resolve ambiguities with the contracting officer as early as you can. However, if you truly aren’t able to get answers and lose an award because of ambiguities in the RFP, a protest may be the best way to obtain a satisfactory resolution. A good government contract lawyer can carefully evaluate the merits of any protest to make sure you are able to make an informed decision about your options.
Whether you’re struggling to resolve ambiguities in an RFP or considering a bid protest, Randolph Law is here to help.
Contact us to learn more.