I recently requested tender documents from a large organisation who wanted a carbon footprint. They had a huge raft of different properties, a big fleet of vehicles and a complex supply chain. When I read the tender I was aghast. They wanted:
- a "comprehensive report" on their carbon footprint.
- 3 ways they could reduce this by a stipulated amount.
- all this within 4 weeks (the same time they had given themselves to evaluate the tenders).
- the consultant to quote a daily rate.
I wrote back and told them this was unrealistic. I didn't explain why in detail, but here are the reasons:
- Daily rate: if you pay by the hour/day then frankly you are paying for the consultant to type slowly or hang around your premises chatting. It's the only way consultants can make any money out of selling their expertise by the hour, other than lying to you about the hours they've put in. The tight timeframe just encourages a larger team of consultants to work even more inefficiently - team meetings rack up those hours.
- Prescriptive methodology: if the person writing the tender has expertise in environmental consultancy, why don't they do it themselves? If not, and they need an expert, why not let that expert suggest their own methodology?
- 3 ways: what happens if it is 2 or 4 or 6?
- Comprehensive report: they must have some space on the dust collecting shelf to fill. Of course, given the daily rate, you'll make the slow typing consultant happy!
- 4 weeks: how does the client know how long a good piece of work will take? Will the client really be able to provide all the information in this timescale? Will all key staff be made available? Would a better study in 8 weeks not be, well, better? Given the complexity of the problem, it will take a reasonable amount of chronological time (as opposed to billable hours) to build an organisational model, collect data, interpret it, interview staff and develop solutions.
How about this as an alternative:
- Fixed fee: the incentive is for the consultant to work efficiently, not rack up billable hours.
- Flexible methodology: I like to engage the client's staff in solution development as a. they know much more about the business than I will learn in a few weeks, and, b. the recommendations are much more likely to be implemented if the staff have ownership. There was no scope for this in the Tender above as the client probably hasn't thought of it. I'm not expecting them to have either - I'm the one who's meant to know what I'm doing!
- Appropriate deliverables, discussed and agreed between consultant and client.
- Unless there is a very good reason for the tight timeframe, why not let the consultant suggest how much time they will need to deliver the project (the engagement strategy I mentioned above will take more time to organise).
This is not a rant against that one organisation - virtually every tender I look at has a similar approach. Which is one reason I've ditched tendering for work except in a few special circumstances. If I were buying consultancy I would ask consultants to send in a project proposal to address the highest level requirements (we want to cut our carbon footprint by X%) the way they think is best, shortlist and interview before appointing.