Build vs. Buy vs. Rent: the Umpteenth Case Study
Over the last couple of weeks, we prepared and promptly lost a bid to set up a Community of Practice environment for an international project on improving air quality. And in fact, we're almost happy that we lost.
The solicitation asked for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration capabilities, including setting up and facilitating international conference calls with simultaneous translation, an e-mail forum, a document repository, and more. "No problem!" was our first reaction -- we know how to do all this, directly or through partners and suppliers. But in fact there were two problems. One was that the budget is too small to really do the job well. The second one is that the wording of the Request for Proposal clearly indicated an assumption that we would develop a custom system and transfer it to the recipient organization for ongoing operation. This made no sense (unless there was a hidden agenda to provide some IT work to the organization). Therefore we proposed to use cloud services for the entire system: without prejudging the selection, we said that a platform such as Notion could support the required knowledge sharing at a reasonable cost, and for teleconferences with separate channels for two languages, we could use Kudo or ZipDX. By doing this and carefully pruning some activities, we could barely fit within the budget.
The proposal was rejected as "not technically compliant" within days. We're now curious to learn, in a few months, if the winning bidder will have been able to develop a solution that works, fits within the budget, and can be supported. Of course, if that's not the case (and we bet it won't), there will be no money left to fix the situation then. But some contracts are just not worth winning.