Why Your Government Web Design RFP Could be Costing You Time and Money

Written by Rachael Walker

Like any responsible municipality, you are conscientious of your budget. After all, your budget is composed of taxpayer dollars, and your taxpayers have entrusted their local government to make decisions for the betterment of the community that optimize available funds for the attainment of the highest quality products and services. Not only do you responsibly assess and allocate your budget, but you also value having processes in place that allow you to prove that you have completed your due diligence of vetting prospective partners and selecting services. If you believe that the only way to successfully validate your purchase of government web design services is through a formal request for proposal (RFP) process, you may be surprised to learn that your RFP process may be costing you time and money and putting you at risk of accessibility fines. It is time to learn how you can expertly spend your taxpayer dollars without compromising on the quality of your community’s digital presence, or wasting time and money on lengthy procedures.

Four Reasons Why Your Government Web Design RFP Process May be Costing You Time and Money

Reason One: A Lengthy RFP Process Exposes Your Administration to Non-Compliance Fines

Accessibility and compliance with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are not new concerns for local government. However, with updates to Section 508 of the ADA going into effect in January 2018, and little clarification and no additional regulations expected to be issued relative to requirements of local government websites for the foreseeable future, greater scrutiny is being placed on municipal digital communication compliance than ever before. There have been an increasing number of filed lawsuits and demand letters sent on behalf of individuals with disabilities alleging that thousands of public sector websites are not accessible. Given these trends, local governments that have not already worked with a solution provider to ensure their municipal website meets the latest compliance standards should do so as quickly as possible to mitigate the risk of being exposed to non-compliance fines.

RFP processes are purposefully lengthy. However, if compliance and accessibility is a concern with your current website, can you risk exposure to tens of thousands of dollars in potential non-compliance fines while you work through an RFP process that will take seven months before a six-month-long redesign even begins? In the end, your administration could be subject to payment of more taxpayer dollars in the form of fines than you hoped to spend on a compliant municipal website.

Civic Tip: Wondering if your current website meets the latest WCAG compliance requirements? Click here for a free, third-party accessibility scan. 

Reason Two: Every Day Your Website Lacks Self-Service Functionality, Your Administration Incurs Costs

According to the Harvard Business Review, the average cost of a single, live customer service interaction (e.g., phone, email, or web chat), costs more than $13 for a business-to-business entity. Comparatively, the cost per digital self-service transaction averages only pennies. If your municipal website currently lacks the type of self-service functionality today’s citizens want and expect from their local government, you are putting a strain on already lean teams, which leads to administrative inefficiencies and costly citizen service interactions. The longer your website lacks such functionality, the more taxpayer dollars you use inefficiently, and investing in a months-long RFP process only exacerbates the avoidable spending.

Click here to read how Pinnellas Park, FL created a citizen-centric website.

Reason Three: An RFP Replaces an Experience-Driven Vision with Requirement-Numerated Criteria

The nature of an RFP is to outline specific requirements of vendors, services, and projects to ensure bidders can meet the needs of the municipality. While this process takes a pragmatic approach to government web design, it can ultimately stifle creativity, flexibility, and ultimately usability. An RFP takes the vision for what is needed from your community’s digital presence out of the hands of the individuals with the most significant intimate knowledge of your citizens and administrators’ needs. It replaces the vision of the informed with a lengthy, tactical checklist with input from every possible stakeholder and department. The result is often an exhaustive requirements document stipulating competing interests that can end up restricting the creative, solution-oriented process. By ensuring a website solution checks off hundreds of feature, functionality, and system requirements, it forces the solution build process to start from a system functionality mindset, rather than from an end user experience perspective to the detriment of citizen taxpayers.

A more successful process starts with a simple conversation between solution providers and administrators and the question, “What goals are you trying to accomplish with your civic website that will enable improved citizen engagement and easier administration?” With this as a starting point, rather than a criteria list, a website solution can be developed organically to accomplish a service-minded goal, rather than a list of technical specifications.

eBook: Guide to Local Government Analytics

Reason Four: An RFP Puts Pressure on Hiring Local, Rather than Experienced

Nearly every RFP template used for any industry across the country will include factors aimed at identifying and giving preference to local service providers. While there are benefits to partnering with local providers for some services, when it comes to your municipal website, a local website development company without specialized expertise in the needs of the public sector will not be suited to build the types of citizen self-service solutions you need. Choosing a vetted service provider with government technology solution expertise is more valuable than selecting a vendor that happens to be located your hometown. An RFP that makes local partnerships a requirement may limit your ability to choose the right partner.

How to Protect Your Budget and Ensure You Meet Procurement Requirements

If your administration has historically followed an RFP procurement process to ensure you are meeting cost and quality validation requirements, know that you have other options to find a vetted partner. Government contract purchasing vehicles allow local governments to identify reliable partner resources, especially for large-scale technology projects such as the development of a new website. Under such arrangements, local governments can buy products and contract with solution providers that have already been vetted by a federally-approved procurement sourcing agency, such as the General Services Administration (GSA).

Purchasing Vehicle Options

There are a variety of options available to local governments looking to partner with vetted solution providers without lengthy RFP processes.

The GSA Schedule – The GSA maintains contracted agreements with a variety of proven solution providers under what is known as the GSA Schedule. It mainly functions as a collection of pre-negotiated contracts. Procurement managers from government agencies can view these agreements and make purchases from the GSA Schedule, and can trust that the chosen the solution provider has been vetted and that all legal obligations have already been completed.

Cooperative Purchasing of IT Services – Cooperative purchasing processes allow state and local governments to purchase from Schedule 70 of the GSA for information technology services. Cooperative purchasing enables local governments to benefit from the buying power of the federal government when buying a variety of services, including software and digital solutions.

Piggybacking – Under Chapter 39.34 RCW, or the Interlocal Cooperation Act, local government agencies may make purchases using another agency’s purchasing contract. This process, known as “piggybacking,” allows smaller agencies to benefit from contracts awarded by larger “host” agencies. It allows small agencies to save time and obtain more competitive rates and terms than if they worked to secure independent bids. Local governments may also be able to piggyback off some federal contracts administered by the GSA, such as IT and digital development contracts.

TIPSThe Interlocal Purchasing System (TIPS) is a national purchasing cooperative that offers access to competitively procured purchasing contracts to its membership, which currently includes state and local governments and non-profit organizations.

Click here to learn more about government contract purchasing vehicles that may enable your community to identify cost-saving solution providers.

CivicPlus®: Your Vetted Solution Partner

CivicPlus is proud to be a certified GSA Schedule Contract Holder for the United States Federal Government as an Information Technology Services provider under the IT Schedule 70. In addition, CivicPlus has been awarded a contract for Web Hosting, Web Services and Content Management under TIPS. CivicPlus has earned a position among the government’s trusted digital solution providers based on evidence of its affordable, market value pricing, quality solutions, and reliable service offerings.

Having partnered with over 2,500 local governments developing municipal websites over the past 20 years, our civic engagement experts know what it takes to translate administrative needs and citizen multi-channel, self-service expectations into a highly functional, and elegant digital solution. To learn more about our CivicEngage® content management system (CMS) and how it can help you meet your citizen engagement goals, click below to sign up for a commitment-free demonstration.

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