This is a follow-up to my recent post about The challenge of selling brainspace, and the general unwillingness for people to pay for the intangibles of ideas, insights, designs planning and perspective.

Here is a very real example, familiar to many of us who have written or responded to a tender (or Request for Proposal/Pitch RFP to Invitation to Quote ITQ)*.

A typical IT project tender is a request for proposal/quotation to design and build some sort of system which is a mixture of hardware, software, systems integration and process integration. Even a straightforward web application (like online sales fulfilment) crosses all these areas. Such systems are by this nature complex, with long term and potentially deep implications for the client.

Surprisingly, the typical borderline-unreasonable requests in such a tender seem to actively work against getting the most appropriate and cost-effective outcome for the client:

As a good friend of mine (you know who you are) would say: “this is so totally f*cked.” This has to be a form of deliberate self-sabotage on the part of the client. There is an incredible waste of resources and effort in this process for all. Just what are the possible psychological factors at work here?

There could be any number of reasons why this is the case:

The end result for the client?

The most practical and reasonable win-win situation here is clearly to start off by paying someone to do some serious stakeholder needs analysis, run brainstorming sessions., and write proper functional specifications before the project goes out to tender. Even for smaller web projects, this step saves a huge amount of grief and money in the long run.

Once the client has a clear scope in place, tender respondents will have a better chance of quoting appropriately for the actual work required, instead of stabbing in the dark. The client will then get a more consistently comparable set of responses.

This process I have described presumably applies to non-IT projects as well (construction, manufacturing, service outsourcing etc), but I have no first hand exposure to these. Please share your experience below.

* I have played a part in a range of permutations of respondents: a consortium of small businesses, a consortium of medium and large businesses, a single small business and a single medium sized-business. Clients have been government bodies, institutions, sporting and arts bodies; in Australia, Singapore and Europe. The success rate has been variable and inconsistent.