Monday, October 15, 2012

States Experiment with Requiring Proposals be Submitted on iPads

At least two states have recently been experimenting with a new twist to RFPs by requiring proposers to submit physical Apple iPads loaded with their proposals. 

Examples:  Montana and Colorado have been testing the waters with iPad submissions for some bigger projects. 
  • Montana last year:  Montana released an RFP for healthcare IT and support services last year that gave proposers the option of submitting proposals loaded onto nine iPads instead of some of the required paper copies. 
  • Current Colorado RFP:  Colorado went a step further recently by actually requiring in the RFP that iPads be submitted on seven iPads for a $100 million Medicaid Management Information System project.  Here's what the RFP states:
"Offeror shall submit proposals using the Apple iPad 2 (or newer) Wi-Fi/32G. Each device shall be preloaded with the appropriate applications to view and annotate proposals; at minimum, the device shall include Quickoffice Pro and iAnnotate for iPad. The Department’s interest in reducing the expense of physically printing copies of the proposals has determined this approach. iPads will not be returned at the end of the evaluation and will become property of the Department for future use as deemed appropriate by the Department. In addition, per Section C.4.3 the Offeror will submit three (3) additional copies on a flash drive for record keeping."
  • Montana earlier this year:  Montana released an RFP earlier this year for an unemployment insurance tax system that called for 13 iPads to be submitted from each proposer with their proposal load onto each iPad.
"Offerors must submit to the State Procurement Bureau one signed original technical proposal, one paper copy, two electronic copies on compact disc (CD) or universal serial bus (USB) flash drives, and 13 Apple iPads Wi-Fi/32GB (or comparable devices with at least 9.50 inches high by 7.31 inches wide screens) with a copy of the proposal preloaded on each. The electronic version of the response shall be in portable document format (PDF), except for the vendor-updated Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM), which shall remain in Microsoft Excel in its own separate file. The technical proposal, along with all attachments must be searchable as a single document, with each section heading bookmarked...The State shall own all materials submitted in response to this RFP, with the exception of the Apple iPads or comparable devices submitted by non-successful offerors. For those offerors who are not the successful offeror, all Apple iPads or similar devices submitted will be returned." 
Who keeps the iPads?  One common question concerns what happens to the iPads after the contract is awarded. Many government RFPs contain standard language specifying that the public agency owns all submission materials - but many see a difference between hard copy proposals in binders prepared specifically in response to an RFP and a popular consumer electronic device. 
Free iPads for agencies?  Should contractors have to give government agencies free tablets (worth around $600 each) in order to submit a proposal?  In at least one of the cases cited above, the answer was no.  After several questions from proposers, the first addendum to Montana's unemployment insurance tax system RFP changed the ownership clause so that unsuccessful proposers will get their 13 iPads back. 

A larger trend?  Is this trend likely to gain further traction?  Maybe, but probably only for larger procurements where proposals can run into the thousands of pages in length.
  • Agency benefits:  Aside from the potential to acquire free iPads, public agencies gain some of the benefits of electronic proposals (e.g., search and using existing workflows to secure and distribute proposals) but without many of the inconveniences. For large procurements, iPads may be an easier way for evaluators to manage and store proposals than large binders. And, of course, it's a greener way of doing business.
  • Proposer benefits:  Proposers avoid the expenses incurred by printing, binding, and shipping several copies of their proposals - although they also have to purchase iPads that may or may not be returned.  For large procurements, the costs associated with the iPads may, in fact, be less expensive for them.  The iPad approach also effectively provides proposers with additional time to work on developing the proposal since they don't have to schedule the time-consuming printing process.
More information:

Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’m unsure as to how this is a greener way of doing business when the iPads themselves are made from toxic pollutants and assembled in countries with horrible environmental and workplace practices. Also the extra packaging required and the extra shipping costs (our company would want to insure the items since they are quite expensive) would cause even more headaches in the final proposal shipping process. I believe we've reached a point in our cloud technology where large proposals can easily be shared via FTP-like programs such as Dropbox or FileZilla. Having the iPads returned should a contract not be awarded would be great but not every organization is willing to do that. This looks like another ploy for these state agencies to score some free technology (similar to the way some are now resorting to companies submitting Flash Drives). Where does the madness end with these purchasing department bureaucracies??