12.3 Unique IT procurements

12.3.1 Solution-based and complex IT procurements

Solution-based RFPs ask suppliers to propose an IT business solution to an agency's identified problems and goals. Solution-based RFPs briefly state the business need, describe the technology problem to be solved, and/or provide minimal specification requirements. The use of solution-based RFPs allows suppliers who are technology subject matter experts to use their broad-spectrum market knowledge, creativity and resources to propose innovative cost-effective technology solutions. Solution-based RFPs may request suppliers to provide a solution for only part of a business problem or to propose high-level concept-type solutions which are evaluated based on a supplier-provided detailed set of requirements.

By their nature, specifications and requirements set limits and thereby eliminate or restrict the items or solutions available for the supplier to include in its proposal. Technology specifications should be written to encourage, not discourage, competition consistent with seeking overall economy for the purpose and technology solution intended. An agency is then able to identify the technology solution, not a particular product or service, which will best meet its technology or business need. Part of the decision-making process of when to use a Solution-based procurement involves performing a risk analysis whereby the project team resolves the following questions:

Does the technology business problem present an opportunity for mutually beneficial risk sharing between us and a supplier?
What factors could significantly impact the probability of completing our project on time and within budget?
Is it possible to evaluate the proposed solutions equally?
Can the solution(s) be evaluated based on a total cost of ownership analysis incorporating the anticipated cost of supporting the proposed solution and other financial options?

When preparing a solution-based SOW, some components will be different than a non-solution-based SOW. A solution-based SOW should include:

The agency's organizational background and current business environment,
A specific list of processes and procedures related to the project, legal or business mandates,
Any project procedural or process documentation,
The project's funding source,
A clear definition of the agency's current technical environment including all current hardware and software being used, could be used or should be used to address the project requirements,
A definition of the business or technology problem to be solved, but not a definition of the desired solution or the problem in terms of a desired solution,
Specifications that describe the characteristics of a technology product, service or solution being sought.

Use technology questions to drive specifications instead of including mandatory requirements in the solicitation. The goal is to invite maximum reasonable competition while procuring the best technology solution for the Commonwealth. Pose questions to suppliers in the solicitation to drive requirements, such as: "What is the industry standard for this product and does your product(s) meet or exceed such standard?" The proposed definitive responses, as negotiated, will then become part of the final SOW in the contract.