If you work for a government, education or nonprofit agency, you can choose between two options when you’re ready to purchase a phone system—both of which will satisfy your bid requirements:
- Request for Proposal (RFP)
- National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA)
Why do bid requirements exist?
Every publicly funded agency must put projects up for bid to provide companies with equal opportunity to win the agency’s business in a standardized format to try to ensure fairness. Agencies are also required to use the bidding process to document how they are spending the funds they’re being given. The most common method for doing this has traditionally been an RFP. But depending on your needs, an NJPA cooperative contract may be a better alternative.
The traditional RFP
The RFP process is designed to create an opportunity for companies to compete fairly for available work. Investopedia defines it this way:
A Request for Proposal for a specific program may require the company to review the bids to not only examine their feasibility, but also the health of the bidding company and the ability of the bidder to actually do what is proposed. The RFP may provide detailed information on the project or program, but can leave leeway for the bidder to fill in the blanks with how the project would be completed or program run.
Though this process was designed with good intentions, it can present some purchasing challenges for government, education and nonprofit agencies. In an article about the effectivenss of the RFP process, Brian Pullen of Playground, Inc. said this:
In principle, the RFP was created to solve a series of issues, with fairness, structure, clarity and distribution being primary among them. It was created to provide an equal opportunity to any company that wished to pitch […]. The process also creates a standardized structure for both creating the RFP and submitting proposals. The RFP was also created to bring clarity to the agencies pitching by making communication of the key requirements more organized upfront. Finally, by having a standardized document that contained all necessary information, it could be widely distributed allowing for many agencies to obtain it and pitch which would result in more options.
Read his full explanation of how RFPs can work against their purpose >
Learn more about Mitel communications offerings for education >
What kind of challenges do RFPs present to government, education and nonprofit agencies?
First, RFPs can limit the quality of responses you receive (not necessarily the quantity). Responding to RFPs is time consuming, so it can cause the following:
- Best agencies choose not to respond
- Businesses only respond if they see a significant benefit and/or high chances of winning the bid
- Those that do respond put little energy into their proposal
Second, and more importantly, this process is very time consuming for agencies going out to bid. In a standard RFP process, each agency will go through the following steps:
- Identify potential providers
- Develop equipment and service specifications
- Create and advertise RFP
- Receive responses to RFP
- Evaluate proposals
- Award lowest bid
- Offer a protest period
- Have equipment delivered and installed
- Review and maintain contract throughout its term
At minimum, we’ve found the RPF process takes three to six months, but usually ends up taking six to nine months from RFP build to installation. And even after all that, the way the RFP process is designed means there is no way to guarantee you will get the products or services that best suit your needs. Factors like cheap hardware and contract structuring that are barely related to your core needs may end up skewing the final decision.
Learn more about Mitel communications offerings for government >
The NJPA alternative
NJPA contracts eliminate these RFP challenges. They take the burden of RFPs off of government, education and nonprofit agencies. The NJPA conducts its own rigorous RFP process and awards a vendor a national contract. Since the RFP work is already done, agencies can purchase communication technology through an NJPA contract outright—saving months of time, word and uncertainty.
If you’re interested in a Mitel communication system, you’re in luck—the NJPA has awarded Mitel as its exclusive telecommunications vendor (that includes unified communications and phone systems).
The purchasing process and timeline is significantly reduced for government, education and nonprofit agencies using NJPA cooperative contracts. Instead of the time-consuming, nine-step process listed above, you only have to complete four steps:
- Become a member of NJPA (if you aren’t already)
- Get in contact with Mitel or a trusted Mitel partner to determine your specific phone system needs
- Indicate that you want NJPA pricing and cut a purchase order
- Have equipment delivered and installed
Not only are there fewer steps, but they take far less time and most of the heavy lifting is handled by Mitel or your Mitel partner (or the work1 has already been done by NJPA).
The work NJPA does to help you avoid the RFP process
Behind the scenes, here's the 12-step process NJPA goes through to make this all possible. This is what saves you – the education or government phone system buyer – plenty of time and money on the traditional RFP process.
- Identify members’ needs,
- Research solutions available in the marketplace
- Request permission from the NJPA Board of Directors
- Draft a solicitation, public advertisement and notice
- Conduct a pre-proposal conference followed by receipt of responses
- Evaluate proposers’ responses
- Review evaluation results
- Provide recommendations to the NJPA Board
- Award vendor(s)
- Post approved contract documents
- Develop and implement a joint marketing plan with awarded vendor(s)
- Review and maintain our contract throughout its term.
See the full detailed deep dive of this process on NJPA's website >
Common reservations about NJPA
For some, the benefits of the NJPA process may seem too good to be true. Here are some of the most common reservations we’ve heard, and the straight answers:
- Reservation: Becoming a member of NJPA is difficult or expensive
- The Truth: Membership is no-cost, no-obligation and no-liability for eligible agencies, including government, education or nonprofit agencies nationwide
- Reservation: I’m not familiar with NJPA and don’t want to work with an unknown third party
- The Truth: NJPA simply works in the background; the purchasing agency typically never communicates with NJPA
- Reservation: The NJPA process won’t satisfy my bid requirement
- The Truth: Yes, the NJPA contract can satisfy your bid requirements—we have all the documentation you’ll need