The Challenge of Bid Specs

One of the things we deal with in the integration world is the illustrious Bid Spec. A Bid Spec is a document a church will send out when looking to get quotes on an AVL project. I can’t say this with certainty, but I would guess this originated in the construction industry, and made its way over to AVL projects. In both industries, they are problematic. Over the next few posts I’m going to talk about what a Bid Spec is, and identify some of the problems it creates for not only integrators, but churches as well. I’ve been watching churches doing Bid Specs for a number of years now, and it never seems to work out well. 

Too Broad

One of the challenges of a Bid Spec is that it tends to be too broad. I’ve seen line items that say, “Upgrade speaker system in sanctuary.” Yeah, um, that’s helpful. Especially when there’s no detail on the sanctuary in question. Or the type of worship service that happens there. Or the sound the church is going for. Or the budget they have to work with. So basically, that gives us no information to work with to make an intelligent recommendation. What’s an integrator to do? All we can do is guess. And how much is a guess worth? 

Too Specific

I’ve also seen Bid Specs where everything is too specific. Sometimes we get both too broad and too specific in the same document. Occasionally I’ve become convinced that the Bid Spec committee (and it’s always a committee) just grabbed a bunch of issues of Church Production Magazine and listed all the gear they saw in said issues. 

Now, there may be nothing wrong with the gear listed. But does it all work together? Will it deliver the results they are after? What are those results, by the way? When I get these Bid Specs, I can price it out, and usually I’m thinking the whole time, “This makes no sense, but here you go.” 

Light On Design

Now, before I go any further, I should mention that I’m not talking about Bid Specs that are released after the church hires a firm to do a full design of the system. Those can actually work out OK. It’s not my favorite way to do a project, but at least there is a design that we’re working with. 

No, I’m talking about the Bid Specs the churches do themselves. And in those, there is no design. And chances are, you’re not going to get any design from the integrators you send the spec to. The reason is simple; it’s a bid. Most of us are busy enough that we’re not going to do a bunch of free design work that may either A) be ignored because someone else is chosen for the project, or B) given to another company to fulfill. 

At best, on a Bid Spec like that, you’ll get pieces and parts of systems that were designed for other projects, that are likely to work together, but may or may not deliver the results you want. Like I said, it’s a guess, based on limited information. 

Sometimes, we’ll see Bid Specs that say they know there’s not enough information here to do a full design, but give us a bid anyway, and we’ll choose one, then have you do it again after meetings and site surveys. So basically, the church will choose a company based on radically different proposals—because there’s no common design—and then ask the chosen company design the system, to the same budget, of course. Again, it’s not a wise way to go about it. 

I’ll get to some better ways to go about this process in later posts, but next time, I’ll talk about why Bid Specs are challenging for integrators. Then we’ll see why they’re challenging for churches. Stay tuned…

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