Whether you are hiring an architect or a general contractor, in order to ensure you receive good comparable quotes, there are certain key pieces of information you must include with your solicitation.  If you are missing any of these items you could find that your quotes have a wide pricing spread.  This could lead you to make bad award decisions and to disqualify well qualified Vendors.

When reviewing your bids don’t assume that the higher numbers are wrong.  Make sure that the basis of all bids is the same.  This is called bid leveling.  Bid leveling is the process of reviewing each bid to ensure that all of the quotations have included the same  scope of work.  Bid leveling can be done at any point before you make an award, but best practice is to ensure that your quote solicitation includes clear and consistent information to all bidders.

Ensuring that your solicitation includes the following elements is a good way to make sure you get comparable bids.

Scope of Work

The most obvious piece of information is the scope of work.  Your scope of work depends greatly on what type of services you need and what phase of work you are in.  If you are just starting your project, you might need to have some preliminary work done in order to help document the scope for your Architect.  In later phases of work, your Architect’s drawings become the scope of work.

Scope of Services

Another piece of information you will need is the scope of services.  The difference between the scope of work and the scope of services is that the scope of work reflect what you want to build, the scope of services reflects how you want the services performed.  For design services, the scope of services should address how many design milestones you require, how drawings are to be presented to you, and what level of interaction your Architect is expected to have with the local building department.  For the GC, this should address, site clean-up, working hours, and parking.  These are just a few examples of the topics that should be included.

Schedule

Another key piece of information that you will need to solicit a quote is your project’s schedule.  It’s important to let your consultant or contractor know what kind of time you have in mind for the work.  This could impact the amount of resources needed and how quickly they will need to mobilize.  When you are communicating your schedule you don’t need to be very detailed.  All you need to have is your key milestone dates identified.  For example, you may only know that you want to start design on a particular date.  You may not know when construction will start or when construction will end.  Alternatively, you may have a specific need date in mind.  If so, communicate your intended end date and allow the bidders to plan the intermediate dates accordingly.

Contract Terms

Contract terms are another key piece of information when soliciting a quote.  Make sure you know what form of agreement you expect to use before you even asking for numbers.  This will ensure that everybody is meeting the contract terms or at least they’re aware of them.

Bid Form

Another key component of a good solicitation is a bid form.  This is less about information for the bidders and more about your ability to compare quotes.  It’s not a good idea to allow bidders to submit their quotes in any format they choose.  There are no standards for how to quote a project, so if you leave this open, you will have several formats to reconcile.  Invariably, what will happen is that you will be forced to try and reconcile the differences on the back end.  That can sometimes be impossible and you may find yourself working harder to confirm details with each bidder.  In the end, you may still be left with uncertainties and may be making an uninformed decision.

There are a number of best practices that go along in creating each of these documents.  I’ll tackle each of these individually in future postings.  Regardless, the main idea here is that all of your bidders should have the same complete information on which to base their quotes.  If you are not clear, the bidders may make assumptions which could be reflected in higher or lower quotes.  This could lead you to bad award decisions.

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