Bid Specs--Challenging for Integrators

We’ve been talking about Bid Specs. Last time, I talked about some of the problems with Bid Specs in general; they are often too broad, too narrow (sometimes at the same time), and they tend to be light on design. It is my belief that generally speaking, Bid Spec projects are less than ideal, both for the church and for integrators. Next time I’ll share why I think it’s not good for the church, but today, we’ll focus on why integrators don’t love Bid Specs.

Over Bidding

One of the challenges for an integrator when faced with a Bid Spec is the tendency to over-bid the project. That’s because there isn’t enough detail in the spec, and in order to protect themselves, they’ll pad the project. It’s not (typically) an attempt to over-charge the church; it’s simply that there are too many unknowns, and as the job develops, costs are going to go up. And often, the church wants to hold the provider to the budget they submitted, the integrator ends up eating the cost. 

Keep in mind, this bid was what I call “best guess.” Based on the very limited information in the spec, we take our best guess at what might work. Of course, the downside to overbidding a Bid Spec job is that another firm will take a different approach.

Under Bidding

Many times, the point of the Bid Spec is for the church to get the best deal. If you’ve read this website for any length of time, you know I’ve talked a lot about the difference between a good deal and the best price. The two are often not the same. Since we know the church wants the best price, some companies will bid low, figuring they can change order the job up as it develops. 

Of course, the down side to this is that if the church refuses the change orders and demands the integrator honor their original bid—which was based on an incomplete document, remember—the integrator eats the cost. That’s not a good business model for the long term. 

Generic Design

Most integrators like to be proud of their work. They want each project, no matter how big or small, to be one that they could take prospective clients to and show off. Another challenge of a Bid Spec is that it forces integrators to use generic designs. They make take a PA from one project, a video system from another and a lighting system from a third. Those could be fine designs in and of themselves, but do they really fit the church in question? Is the equipment, the layout and functionality really what the church needs? It’s hard to say; it’s our best guess. 

Best Guess, Mr. Sulu

I don’t remember which Star Trek movie it was, but Captain Kirk asked Sulu to plot a course somewhere. The ship had suffered damage and the computer wasn’t working right. When Sulu pointed this out, Kirk’s response was, “Best guess, Mr. Sulu.” 

I’ve used that phrase a lot in this series, and you’ll keep seeing it. When we’re working on a Bid Spec, you’re getting the integrator’s best guess. Now, if they’re a good integrator, that may be pretty solid. It may get you in the ballpark. However, do you want the best guess, or do you want the best system they can design for you? A near miss or spot on target? Some churches rationalize that even a “best guess” is better than what they have now; but what if that’s only because the current system was also a best guess?

Personally, when I’m working on a project, I take great pride in getting the details right. Details that make the system just the right system for that church. Sometimes those details are similar among systems, but often, it’s the way the whole thing is put together that takes it from good to great. 

Hopefully I’ve made a good case for why I think Bid Specs are not great for integrators. Next time, I’ll talk about why I think they are not good for churches, either.

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