Thursday, December 8, 2016

Building better RFPs

SIMA and PRSM members put their heads together at Think Tank to solve challenges related to procurement.

By Brian Birch, CAE
SIMA has made it a priority over the past four years to proactively engage the facilities management industry. The most tangible success we’ve had has been in the form of the SIMA Think Tank, an annual event where the snow and facilities worlds convene to discuss the challenges and opportunities that bind them.

In 2015, the Think Tank served as a springboard to create the Best Practices Procurement Timeline. We’d be na├»ve to expect that all of your contracts this season were finalized earlier than last year due to that work; but if we change them over time, we can make a big difference.

We aren’t satisfied though. As an industry, we want more and that is why we held this year’s Think Tank in Schaumburg, IL, in tandem with the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association’s (PRSM) Mid-Year Conference.

We took a risk and decided not to treat this as a half-networking and half-facilitated discussion about the problems. We have heard for years that SIMA needs to create procurement standards, so we asked attendees to be an organized focus group that would serve as the stepping off point for such a project.

Divide and conquer

We divided more than 70 attendees into nine groups: two groups of facilities managers, three groups of snow contractors and four mixed groups. SIMA staff or volunteers served as facilitators.

We then guided them through a series of solutions-oriented exercises addressing the following areas:

  • Defining Scope of Work and Level of Service
  • Procurement Methodologies for Snow & Ice
  • Service Accountability and Verification
We analyzed responses from the groups. It was fascinating to see the differences between the proposed concepts/solutions depending on who was at the table. We noticed that the more blended the tables became, the more diffuse their proposed solutions were. It is a reflection of how convoluted the entire procurement process is for buyers (FMs) and sellers (contractors).

The results were collated into a comprehensive report. Although there is no set of best practices or standards yet, the Think Tank provided the qualified, diverse feedback we needed to determine our next project - the creation of a quality best practices guide for building RFPs specific to snow services. 

Help us continue

We need your help to make this happen before spring. Here is how you can engage:
  • Bring the Brain Power. Request a copy of the full Think Tank report from Once you read it, share your ideas, experiences or analysis with Phill Sexton at
  • Put Your Hand Up. If you are willing to serve as a stakeholder who reviews content for any related SIMA Best Practices, email me at
  • Build with Best Practices. Visit and download our glossary, procurement timeline, salt use or qualification checklist. If you want a compiled resource of all best practices, download them at
We know that the Think Tank was a bit unorthodox. But we didn’t want to get everyone together to talk about the problems that exist - we wanted to focus on solutions. 

Thank you to the attendees for your patience as we took you through the process. We also want to thank our colleagues at PRSM for working with us to host the Think Tank during their event. When we initially reached out to the FM world, we couldn’t have envisioned a better relationship than the one that has developed with PRSM these past few years.   

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