Bid Specs--Bad For Churches

Continuing on our series on Bid Specs, today we’ll talk about why I think they are bad for churches as well as integrators. We’ve already talked about why I think Bid Specs are problematic in a generic sense, and how they are a challenge for integrators. One might be tempted to think that I’m writing this from a selfish perspective. I do work for an integrator, after all, and if Bid Specs are bad for integrators, it stands to reason that I don’t like them.

But here’s the thing; I’ve worked for churches approximately 5 times longer than I’ve worked for an integrator. And I’ve been leading build projects as a volunteer or staff member for about 12 times longer than I’ve been an integrator. I’ve also helped other churches with their projects, so I’ve seen this from all sides. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a good way to go, even for the church that is looking for the “best deal.” Here’s why.

Unrealistic Budgets

As previously mentioned, Bid Specs suffer from being either too broad or too specific. Or both simultaneously. In either case, the integrator will hedge his bets so he’s not left holding the bag when the project is finally properly defined. Other integrators will bid low to get the job, figuring they can change order their way back to profitability as the project evolves. Either way, the church is looking at budgets that are either too low or too high. 

Again, there is not necessarily malice on the part of the integrators here. While there may be a few out there looking to make a quick buck, most are honorable people who like serving the Church. But given the inherent flaws in the Bid Spec process, it’s almost impossible to do so well. 

You’re Paying Too Much

I would be willing to bet that most times when a church does a Bid Spec, they end up paying too much. How is this possible when the whole idea is to get the best deal? Think back over all the problems we discussed: The specs aren’t accurate, the equipment list came from Church Production Magazine, over bidding, under bidding, generic designs. All of these things will lead to a higher cost in the end. 

Moreover, it’s likely that the church issuing the Bid Spec is not very well versed on the current state of technology. They may be unaware of newer equipment that is less expensive that will work very well for their application. As a result, they may be spending a lot more paying for the “old standard” while missing out on some newer winners. Every industry has manufacturers and products that fall into the category of, “You can get more but you can’t pay more.” But, with heavy marketing dollars and a good reputation, those are often the products that show up in the Bid Spec.

Lack of Customization

Good integrators pride themselves on delivering solutions that are designed for each client. They may work with packages of gear they’ve standardized on because they know it works, but it will be selected and placed for the specific church in question. A Bid Spec usually eliminates that. Because there is no real design going on, the bid tends to end up in the place of, “We’re pretty sure this will all work OK, and it’s basically what you asked for.” 

I’m not going to be proud of a system like that, and ultimately, the church won’t be as happy as they should be. Sure, it could be better than the 15 year old system they have—that was likely Bid Spec’d—but it’s not the ideal solution. 

Overall, there’s not a lot to love about the Bid Spec process. I cringe whenever I’m asked to do one, because I know that no one really wins. Sure, we may get the job, and the church may get a bunch of new gear, but do we really all come away feeling good about it? That’s the process we’ll talk about next time: A Better Way.

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