Widgets Magazine

Devaluing AV Professional Services

Recently, my company was solicited to partake in a bid for a corporation,Aeos new US headquarters.-* We knew that we were one of four companies they were entertaining for the audio visual systems integration contract. -*We do not often take part in bid work, but the project,Aeos scale and our company,Aeos reputation gave us the feeling that we had an even chance.
Prior to submitting our ,Aeubest and final,Aeu proposal, we were invited to a pre-bid interview to present to the decision committee in order to review our initial proposal as well as what makes our organization unique and the best option compared to the competition.
This is standard operating procedure through a bid process that many of us have been experienced.-* The customer booked the interviews back-to-back with each of the potential vendors being offered one hour.-* Naturally, they were behind schedule before the first meeting could even get underway.
Upon arrival we were asked to wait outside the construction trailer until they were able to complete the other interview.-* This could have been no big deal, except that the temperature was about 12 degrees outside.-* I was immediately filled with concern about whether this was going to be any different than the typical dog and pony show.
Twenty minutes later they came out and invited us in to defrost.-* At the top of the meeting, before we even went through introductions, the head of procurement informed us that because they were behind schedule our interview was going to need to be thirty-to-forty minutes, down from the original hour we were promised, in order for them to catch up.
We came prepared with posters that showed how our company operates on a project of this scale.-* We were ready to explain how we were fully staffed to handle this size of a job without the need of leaning on unskilled labor to perform the work, which we knew some of our competition would be doing just based on experience.-* The head of procurement explained that this was going to be quite simple; the consultant that did the design work was in the room and he was going to run down a list of questions about our bid response and we would provide the answers.-* They would then allow us twenty-four hours to go back and scrub our bid to provide our ,Aeubest and final,Aeu proposal.
At the end of the process, we learned that our bid was neither the most expensive nor the cheapest.-* However, we did not win the business because the customer went with the lowest bidder, who quoted the professional services (labor, project management, administrative costs) at one third the cost of our price for the same services.-* They were the cheapest for professional services by nearly half to the next closest bidder.
It is cases like this that drive me absolutely mad.-* The successful bidder essentially decided to drastically reduce their labor and professional services, in this case to an irresponsible level, in order to win the business.-* They bid the equipment list and possibly didn,Aeot even bother reading the scope document on the bid and instead authored a scope of work that fit the labor budget quoted.
As opposed to focusing on the needs of the end user, this approach focuses more on selling product. Over the course of the project, the integrator will strategically issue change orders to the client in order to add margin to their price. Many of these changes will probably be for functionality additions that had been factored in to our proposal.
At the end of the day, the client may end up with poorly installed systems that do not meet the client,Aeos originally intended requests and the winning vendor has completely devalued the expertise of their team to perform successfully.-* This, to me, is simply a lose/lose situation.
Now, more so than ever as AV continues to merge with IT, a basic survival skill for companies is going to be hiring and retaining highly skilled, trained professionals.-* In order to retain those employees and keep up with the ever-evolving technologies, more and more training and certifications will need to be obtained.-* Training overhead costs should be factored by all companies into the charges of professional services on a project basis.
When I first started in this industry about 10 years ago, I thought that the Bid/Spec world was bad because customers that go to bid compare apples and oranges while devaluing and commoditizing the services our industry provides.-* But this last interaction in a bid opened my eyes to the real problem with the process: it,Aeos not the customer that is devaluing our industry, it,Aeos the competition.
This is but one example that demonstrates how some companies are making it hard to do business fairly, for a decent wage, with a good quality of life for all parties involved.

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