When you’re a procurement manager, you’re used to being up to your ears in requests for proposal (RFP) documents, bids, and quotations. You’re always making sure the boxes are checked, and vendors are in compliance with regulations and have the appropriate certifications. Even so, it’s only natural to be apprehensive about choosing a vendor for your municipal, city, county, or public library website project.
It’s a weighty responsibility to procure a vendor for a project often years-long in the making. You have many vendor choices and plenty of must-have factors to consider. So it’s not always clear how to balance out cost and quality — and choose the best possible option.
While the entire procurement process is undeniably complicated, contracting with the right vendor doesn’t have to be. A specialist organization that understands government agencies and how to skillfully contract with them can make this pivotal point much easier.
A Contracting Specialist Provides the Savvy You Need
A bogged-down process, extended deadlines, difficult communication: you’ve seen them all before in the contracting phase. A vendor who is ill-equipped to work with a government agency almost assures you’ll have at least one (or all) of these issues.
Contracting for a municipal website project is particularly tricky. There’s nothing routine about it, and it only comes up every few years. You may be scrambling to figure out exactly what to include in the scope of work (SOW). It may even be tempting to copy what other agencies outlined in their RFPs in hopes it will be what you need, too.
What usually occurs through the process of acquiring a vendor is that you learn more and want more than what was in the original SOW anyway. New elements in your SOW means your vendor needs to refit initial requirements in a way that satisfies all parties. That’s no small feat — and the only way a contract can be signed.
Choosing a specialist digital agency with savvy in the government sector can save you a lot of headaches. You need a partner that knows exactly what details to include in your revised SOW, including:
- Milestones, deliverables, and fees. What is mapped out for each month? What will the correlating monthly fees be?
- Municipal website software (CMS) feature sets. What features and functionalities have you selected for your content management system?
- Who handles what? What is the municipal agency responsible for, and what is the vendor responsible for? Clearly delineating the division of responsibilities, particularly with respect to website content, is critical.
- How to handle changes? Change orders occur, and specifying how those are handled and what’s not included is often as important in municipal website projects as what is included.
The firm should also be able to provide an SOW template that clearly and concisely explains and illustrates every detail.
There are clear advantages with a specialist firm: budget evaluation, depth of experience, and vetted documentation. The firm will be able to differentiate between must-haves and nice-to-haves in the SOW — and what can simply be added later.
An Expert Firm Understands the Complexities of Civic Contracts — and Beyond
A firm that knows municipal agencies anticipates all the contracting hoops you’ll need to jump through. It will be intimately familiar with all the government and public organization-specific procedures that have to be followed to the letter.
Contracting for web development has layers of complexity:
- Web development contracting combines several components: professional services, software, and ongoing support. Procuring each separately is challenging.
- Web services span multiple departments. One department may be the procurement lead (typically Information Technology), but your website touches every department.
An expert firm can work gracefully with multiple components and stakeholders. This ability is especially important after the contract is completed and the discovery phase begins.
The discovery phase of your website project necessitates hearing all the stakeholders’ voices. It’s imperative that everyone works toward a web development plan consensus. Your chosen firm needs to provide clear guidance to stakeholders so they can balance their desires against the statement of work.
Sure, a firm with plenty of digital and government experience under its belt knows the ins and outs of contracting. But it also needs to create cohesion in the discovery phase. When you work with Interpersonal Frequency, we use the discovery phase to:
- Collect quantitative data about your users’ needs with our proprietary analytics tool. Voice of Citizen® benchmarks your users’ satisfaction against a large base of similar users.
- Conduct in-depth interviews to gain actionable, shared insights from staff and other stakeholders.
- Review and log all content on the current website. We identify the scope of your content and teach your team how to review it.
- Run collaborative summits. We present our analytics, interviews, and website audit findings and review best UX practices.
A well-defined discovery process builds momentum for future steps in your website project.
The Right Vendor Keeps Your Community Front and Center
Even if the firm you choose has government and digital expertise, they aren’t the right choice if they aren’t grounded in the public good. That means they need to know the concerns and priorities of the end users — government employees and citizens. You should ask the following questions to make sure you are keeping people first:
- Does the firm you are considering understand government employees?
- Do they empathize with the diverse community of website users?
- What proof does the firm have to demonstrate intimate understanding?
A firm who has worked successfully through other municipal agency website projects should be able to provide more than anecdotes. They should be able to provide reliable, relevant data that answers these questions:
- How has the firm benchmarked website success?
- What statistics show the firm really gets how users feel about their website experience — before and after a site update?
- How has the firm responded to the data?
Choose a Data-driven, User-centered Firm That Speaks Your Language
At Interpersonal Frequency, we have the data — and know your users. Our Voice of Patron® and Voice of Citizen® research and analytics tool gathers the information you need to build a website that meets user needs. We can provide insights that will enable you to better serve more people, more often.
We know contracting. We’ve developed SOW templates tailored to government agency needs, both the ones you’ve planned for and those you should have planned for. We’ve walked down this path many times and are not taken off guard by the inevitable surprises.
Yes, contracting is complicated. But with the right partner, it doesn't have to be confusing or surprising. Let's talk about how we can help make your next project a success.