If your municipality is developing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for asset management services, read this tip sheet for information on:
- How to narrow down the number of proposals you receive in response to a future RFP
- Developing an RFP that will yield proposals that are easy to compare and evaluate
- How to feel more confident about making key choices during the procurement process
- Ensuring that the consultant you hire meets your needs and provides the services you are expecting
A common challenge: After issuing a Request for Proposals, municipalities may receive a wide range of responses with vastly different prices and offerings, making it difficult to select a consultant. Sometimes a municipality is well into a project with a consultant before realizing that the work is not what they were anticipating.
Tips and strategies
To clearly define and communicate your objectives and the scope of work:
Take a moment before you begin the procurement process to ensure that you know what you want and what you need. Then, write a well-thought-out RFP that clearly states your requirements.
Before starting the procurement process:
- Clarify your objectives.
- Complete a needs assessment.
- Confirm your assumptions with decision-makers and team members.
- Understand and articulate how this work fits into your strategic objectives and plan, internal processes and organizational culture.
- Identify the type of service you require. In asset management, consultants provide two main types of service:
- Completing a clearly defined task, such as a condition assessment of specific infrastructure
- Coaching you through a process, where your municipal team will do much of the work and learn from the process
- Consider your available resources (municipal team, time and funds).
- Consider the employee time required during the project.
- If your consultant is completing a task for you, you’ll need to identify someone to oversee the project, provide any needed information, and review the work.
- If your consultant is coaching you through a process, you’ll need team members who can undertake the work.
- Consider whether your municipality has the capacity to utilize the resulting work effectively.
- Establish your budget and time frame for the work.
- Know your budget before determining the scope of the work.
- Include a contingency fund for unexpected costs.
- Consider partnering with other municipalities or bundling similar work.
- Consider partnering with non-profit organizations who may complete some or all of the work.
"With regards to the building condition surveys, next time we would try to narrow the scope of work perhaps reducing the number of submissions and increasing the quality of work. Also would involve more departmental supervisors from the onset of the project."
– Town in Ontario (population 9,000)
The scope of work includes both the main project deliverables and your additional expectations. For example, you may want the consultant to prepare an asset management plan, but you may also want the process to help build internal capacity, change the way the asset register is structured, or facilitate an evidence-based conversation with council.
- Define the scope of work to be done. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the project?
- Which people and departments will be impacted?
- Why is the work a priority?
- Will this work impact our asset management plan (requiring an update) or our asset management policy?
- What is our timeline for completion of the work and specific milestones?
- Will employees need training in order to use the results of the consultant’s work? Depending on your budget, you may choose to include that training in the scope.
- Do we want to include a meeting or presentation to the asset management steering committee, senior management team or council?
- Will engaging neighbouring municipalities at any stage add value to the project?
The more specific you are about everything you hope to achieve, the better chance you will have of a consultant’s proposal meeting your needs.
Still not sure how to define your objectives or scope of work or how to settle on a budget?
- Reach out to neighbouring municipalities to learn about their experiences.
- For tools and best practices, connect with associations, your local provincial/territorial municipal association (PTA), communities of practice and other orders of government for tools and best practices.
- Use potential consultants as a sounding board to help you identify an achievable scope of work for your budget.
- Set up the work to unfold in stages, and make objective-setting the first milestone. This can be a separate engagement or phase one of a multi-phase project.
While developing the Request for Proposals:
- Clearly articulate all your expectations—both the deliverables and the other outcomes you hope to achieve. Be specific.
- Decide whether you want to declare your available budget. You have two options:
- Declare your budget and compare proposals based on what is being offered for that budget.
- Avoid declaring your budget, but outline the scope of work in detail, and compare proposals based on price.
- Where possible, use common “asset management” language. Tools like FCM’s Asset Management Readiness Scale can help.
"A municipality receives report submissions from multiple engineering firms over the years. The City has experienced situations where a consultant would like to develop a report in a template that is not consistent with previous reports received. We provide a detailed and standardized scope of work to ensure consistency of deliverables to achieve the project goal."
– City of Greater Sudbury, ON (population 164,926)
Remember to build in flexibility as you plan this work! A well-defined scope at the onset will help avoid future surprises, and you can leave room to review and update the scope or deliverables as the project unfolds.
Maximizing the benefits of working with a consultant: City of Plessisville, QC (population 6,688)
The City of Plessisville, QC (population 6,688), hired a consultant to help it introduce new asset management software, to improve the quality of information used for decision-making. While the software is now functional and well-implemented, the project faced many issues during the early years of implementation. At first, the scope of the project and the complexity of the software were not appropriate for the city’s needs. The scope of the project was just too large—the city did not have the capacity to implement it correctly. In discussion with the consultant, Plessisville decided to simplify the software, which is greatly customizable. At the same time, the city reduced the scope of the project to implement it, at first, only in the most organized division (water management) as a pilot project. The city learned that it as easier to implement it in a division that was already practicing some kind of asset management, than in another division that was less organized. Furthermore, the city’s experience with the pilot helped it identify and correct any issues before implementing the software in other divisions.