Sourcewell vs RFP for buying a government, education, non-profit phone system image

Work for a government, education, or nonprofit agency? You can choose between two options when you’re ready to purchase a communications system — both of which will satisfy your bid requirements:

  1. Request for Proposal (RFP)
  2. Sourcewell Contract Purchasing

Why Do Bid Requirements Exist?

Every publicly funded agency must put projects up for bid to provide companies with equal opportunity to win the agency’s business in a standardized format to ensure fairness. Agencies must also use the bidding process to document how they spend the funds they’re being given. The most common method for doing this has traditionally been an RFP. But depending on your needs, the Sourcewell cooperative purchasing contract may be a better alternative.

The Traditional RFP

The RFP process is designed to allow companies to compete fairly for available work. Investopedia defines it this way:

A Request for Proposal for a specific program may require the company to review the bids to examine their feasibility, the bidding company's health, and the bidder's ability to do what is proposed. The RFP may provide detailed information on the project or program but can leave leeway for the bidder to fill in the blanks with how the project would be completed or program run.

Though this process was designed with good intentions, it can present some purchasing challenges for government, education, and nonprofit agencies. In an article about the effectiveness of the RFP process, Brian Pullen of Playground, Inc. said this:

In principle, the RFP was created to solve a series of issues, with fairness, structure, clarity, and distribution being primary among them. It was created to provide an equal opportunity to any company that wished to pitch […]. The process also creates a standardized structure for creating the RFP and submitting proposals. The RFP was also created to bring clarity to the agencies pitching by making communication of the key requirements more organized upfront. Finally, having a standardized document containing all necessary information could be widely distributed, allowing many agencies to obtain and pitch it, resulting in more options.

Learn more about Mitel offerings for education >

What challenges do RFPs present to government, education, and nonprofit agencies?

First, RFPs can limit the quality of responses you receive (not necessarily the quantity). Responding to RFPs is time-consuming, so it can cause the following:

  • Best agencies choose not to respond
  • Businesses only respond if they see a significant benefit and/or high chances of winning the bid
  • Those that do respond put little energy into their proposal     

Second, and more importantly, this process is very time-consuming for agencies going out to bid. In a standard RFP process, each agency will go through the following steps:

  1. Identify potential providers
  2. Develop equipment and service specifications
  3. Create and advertise RFP
  4. Receive responses to RFP
  5. Evaluate proposals
  6. Award lowest bid
  7. Offer a protest period
  8. Have equipment delivered and installed
  9. Review and maintain contract throughout its term 

At a minimum, the RFP process takes three to six months but usually takes six to nine months from RFP build to installation. And even after all that, the way the RFP process is designed means there is no way to guarantee you will get the products or services that best suit your needs. Factors like cheap hardware and contract structuring barely related to your core needs may skew the final decision.

Learn more about Mitel offerings for government >

The Sourcewell Alternative

Sourcewell contracts eliminate these RFP challenges. They take the burden of RFPs off government, education, and nonprofit agencies. Sourcewell conducts its own rigorous RFP process and awards a vendor a national contract. Since the RFP work is already done, agencies can purchase communication technology outright through a Sourcewell contract, saving months, words, and uncertainty.

If you’re interested in a Mitel communication system, you’re lucky — Sourcewell has awarded Mitel a communications solutions vendor contract.

The purchasing process and timeline are significantly reduced for government, education, and nonprofit agencies using Sourcewell cooperative contracts. Instead of the time-consuming, nine-step process listed above, you only must complete four steps:

  1. Become a member of Sourcewell (if you aren’t already)
  2. Get in contact with Mitel or a trusted Mitel partner to determine your specific phone system needs
  3. Indicate that you want Sourcewell pricing for procurement
  4. Coordinate with your Mitel Partner (Sourcewell selling agent) for installation and implementation.

Not only are there fewer steps, but they take far less time, and most of the heavy lifting is handled by Mitel or your Mitel Partner (or the work has already been done by Sourcewell).

Sourcewell Does the Work to Help You Avoid the RFP Process

Behind the scenes, here's the 12-step process Sourcewell goes through to make this all possible. This saves you, the education or government phone system buyer, plenty of time and money on the traditional RFP process.

  1. Identify members’ needs
  2. Research solutions available in the marketplace
  3. Request permission from the Sourcewell Board of Directors
  4. Draft a solicitation, public advertisement, and notice
  5. Conduct a pre-proposal conference followed by receipt of responses
  6. Evaluate proposers’ responses
  7. Review evaluation results
  8. Provide recommendations to the Sourcewell Board
  9. Award vendor(s)
  10. Post approved contract documents
  11. Develop and implement a joint marketing plan with awarded vendor(s)
  12. Review and maintain our contract throughout its term

See the deep dive of this process from Sourcewell >

3 Common Sourcewell Reservations 

For some, the benefits of the Sourcewell process may seem too good to be true. Here are some of the most common reservations we’ve heard and the straight answers:

1. Becoming a member of Sourcewell is difficult or expensive.

The Truth: Membership is no-cost, with no obligation, and no liability for eligible agencies, including government, education, or nonprofit agencies nationwide.

2. I’m not familiar with Sourcewell and don’t want to work with an unknown third party.

The Truth: Sourcewell is a government agency. Regarding purchasing, city leaders get the best of both worlds – local dealer access with national buying power through cooperative purchasing.

3. The Sourcewell process won’t satisfy my bid requirement.

The Truth: Yes, the Sourcewell contract can satisfy your bid requirements — we have all the documentation you’ll need.      

Want to learn more? Reach out to Murray Van Dyke to help you understand your options.

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