The Value Of A Paid Project Evaluation

Now that organizations are starting to emerge from pandemic operating mode, I’m starting to see an uptick in the number of groups requesting proposals for website and/or ticketing CRM projects. While the request for proposal (RFP) process is a tried-and-true method for finding providers, it’s not your only option. In many cases, it may not be your best option.

Proposals tend to suffer from detail deficiencies and they don’t offer any meaningful “getting to know you” stage where you can learn about how your potential providers operate, which should be as important as the deliverables.

Proposals have a higher degree of creating an environment of missed opportunity. Sure, the provider gets paid and may deliver a “good enough” product, but it likely falls short of what you need and will only put you in a position where you must repeat the process all over again in a few years.

For example, you wouldn’t expect to get married after one date but that’s pretty much what the RFP process is: you interview several providers using a laundry list of characteristics to whittle them down to a final few. But organizations absorb a good bit of risk by employing this approach to what may produce a multi-year written agreement.

You’re looking for a B2B provider, not a Tinder date.

As an alternative, consider a paid project evaluation. For most organizations, a process like this will put them in the best position to receive accurate project costs and facilitates stronger client/provider relationships. It eliminates conjecture and details the project to such a level that there are no pricing surprises, no push back against cost overruns via project creep, and you’ll get a much better sense of the provider’s skill sets. A positive working relationship can mean the difference between success and failure.

You can also consider using a project evaluation to determine a finalist if no clear winner emerges from a traditional RFP process.

Even if you don’t have an RFP, a project evaluation can go a long way to putting one together. It will provide key details you can use to solicit bids from other providers and perform genuine apples to apples comparisons.  To be fair, you should inform a provider about your intent to use a project evaluation report as basis for an RFP and any reputable group should be fine with that process.

In that sense, you should look at the evaluation as non-refundable deposit that provides better understanding and cost control measures. Having said that, a reputable provider should be willing to apply the cost of the evaluation to your total project fee if you decide to award them the project.

I’ve been offering paid project evaluations for a decade with my Venture Platform clients and I’ve been offering the same option for potential UpStageCRM users. In every instance, the client has been entirely satisfied with the end result regardless of whether or not my company won the bid.

If your organization is at the point where they are considering a tech project, introduce the idea of a paid project evaluation to the conversation.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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