Website RFPs Need Smarter Windows for Delivery

We look at plenty of Requests for Proposals (RFPs).   One of the things we’ve noticed in general about the RFP process for web site redesign is a bit of an unreasonable expectation on the timeline for deliverables on, well, pretty much everything.
Often we see RFPs that request proposals in 30-40 days, at most.  The decision making process may allow for another 30 days before awarding.  And then, the final released web site version is expected 60 days after the award.
It depends on the technology and design involved in the web site redesign, but for projects at a level requiring a RFP, you are shooting yourself in the foot and creating both bad results for your proposal collection and bad results for your release when you have tight timelines.  Here’s why:
Any web development agency worth its salt has work booked already on the calendar.  We already have projects contracted to start 6 months from now, because those projects are substantive and will take a lot of our time.  The assumption that you will fit into an agency’s workload within 2 months is unreasonable.  And if they are not busy, you have to wonder why.  So, what you will end up with is some:
  • Proposals from agencies that are not busy.  Why is that?
  • Over-priced proposals from agencies that will use your revenue value as a reason to delay another project.
  • Proposals that will not be met on deliverable time.
Secondly, all website projects require a lot of work by the client.  There are hundreds of questions to be answered, and each answer can determine the results of another issue.  You are not buying a house already built – you are either remodeling an existing house or building a new one.  You will be customizing, you will making decisions, and that requires at least internal meetings to ascertain your staff’s needs, meetings to ascertain your content resources, meetings to discuss the continuing evolution of the site so it is developed to easily allow for that evolution, and a timeline for you, the client, of marching orders to collect resources that only you have access to, and to make decisions that only you should make.
Because any web site redesign requires a lot of work of the client.
Yes, as much of this as possible should be taken care of prior to the RFP release, but there lies the rub.  If the client knew had the technical acumen to foresee all issues, this wouldn’t be an RFP process, this would be a targeted hire.   But if you are using the RFP process, you are declaring that you don’t know, and are using the RFP process to determine issues and costs from experts in the field in a search for the best fitting vendor.
That won’t relieve you from meetings, and careful consideration, and time.
So on those RFPs, you should relax those timeline requirements a bit, if you belong in the camp that it is better to take your time and get it right rather than hurry up and redo it again in a year.  60-90 days should be sufficient to get the proposals response.  That gives the developer a chance to consider all questions, ask and hopefully get answers to those questions, and document a quality response.  Timeline to begin on the project can be whenever you want to get started on the project.  BUT…
Don’t sabotage your process with a quick turnaround time for the release of the final version.  Instead, ASK in your RFP for the estimated delivery time of final product from the vendor, so you have an idea of how you really fit within their workload.  And use that information for your decision-making as well.