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May the Best Vendor Win

Best Value Procurement is a scientifically proven way to choose the best supplier. Here’s how it works

By Laura Bickle

Wouldn’t it be great if choosing a travel supplier were as simple as going through your RFPs and choosing the lowest bidder? But you only have to do that once to know that’s not always that best route. So how can you ensure that you end up with the best combination of affordability, service and reliability? That’s the goal of the Best Value Procurement Process, developed by the Performance Based Studies Research Group (PBSRG) at Arizona State University and used by the University of Manitoba, Alberta Infrastructure, the City of Spruce Grove, Alta., and a consortium of five Ontario universities. The process has been tested and refined over the execu­tion of more than 900 projects.

There are three main components to BVP:

1. Evaluation and selection: If you’re used to proposals that look more like novels, this pared-down approach will be a welcome surprise. The potential vendors submit anonymous proposals that include Risk Assessment, Project Capability and Value Added (templates are provided by PBSRG), which are evaluated by the vendor’s selection committee. Price and Past Performance Information (references) are scored numerically. After this evaluation, the committee interviews key operations personnel from the vendor’s side. The interviews are strictly a question-and-answer session (no presentations) and last about 25 minutes.

“BVP takes the smoke and mirrors out of the proposal process and enables vendors to focus more on the expertise they are bringing to the table,” says Brian Lines, a project manager with Arizona State University who helps clients implement the process.

2. Pre-planning: Once the successful vendor has been chosen—but before the contract is signed—the vendor and buyer finalize a detailed project plan, identify risks and discuss ways to minimize them and confirm the project schedule. Again, these discussions include the people who will be actually doing the work. “The pre-award timing of the planning process also provides more clarification and detail for the buyer, which makes them more com­fortable with what they are buying than in any other system we have seen,” says Lines.

3. Performance measurement: The process doesn’t end when the contract is signed. The vendor produces a weekly risk report, which documents factors impacting cost, scheduling and quality. This forces the vendor to think ahead and fosters com­munication and problem-solving between the two parties. “The report system maintains a focus on high service levels and keeps the vendor and owner teams proactive for the duration of the service,” say Lines.

Linda Warner, the manager of travel management at the University of Edmonton, Alberta, used the BVP process when hiring a travel company for the university’s non-mandated travel program. “The evaluation was very clear and concise and the interview process really allowed the vendor’s people to show their true potential and skill level.” In fact, she says, “I was surprised that all the evaluators came to the same conclusion (about the winning vendor) without ever talking to each other.”

Her advice to travel managers just starting with BVP? “Stick to the true BVP process. Don't take any shortcuts. Trust the process.”

Spreading the word
Brian Lines, who helps clients implement BVP, says he always recommends holding a pre-proposal BVP information session for vendors with the release of the RFP. “We want to make sure the vendors are comfortable with the BVP proposal tem­plates and understand the owner’s intent for using BVP.”

Getting started
Best Value Procurement (BVP) is licensed by Arizona State University (ASU). There is a one-time licensing fee to use the specific language and templates of BVP. ASU pro­vides hands-on training and implementation support for the client’s team (direct assis­tance with RFP development, evaluations, contract planning, and risk and performance tracking tools). ASU also assists with vendor training. There is a one-time licensing fee of $25,000 for organizations that plan to use the process long-term. pbsrg.com

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