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BOFH: I know of a small biz that could deliver nothing for a fraction of the cost

Say! They're right here in the room! Fancy that!

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 20 I've just spent two days reading a RFP responses for a project destined to die a horrible and undignified death. The worst part is that the project is funded from the infrastructure budget, which means that the longer it takes to deep-six it, the more cash will be burned in the RFP process.

And the vendors concerned couldn't give a rat's ass about whether they get the project or not. If they do, it's a pantload of cash with so few deliverables they're probably readying the magic beans right now. If they don't get the project, it's not like they put a lot of effort into it, as most responses look like replays of their responses to a recent RFP from another company.

Which is where the Boss comes in. Thinking there was money to be saved and glory to be had, he plagiarized the aforementioned recent RFP, "tailoring it to our needs" with a series of a poorly executed replace-alls, cut-and-pastes, and section deletions.

Suffice to say his replace-alls didn't use any regular expressions (as the Boss's understanding of that term extends only as far as "I'll have another biscuit!") and the document is littered with large numbers of "SHALL NOT NOT" clauses.

The respondents loved this. It gives them the ability to reinterpret each clause either as written or as a double-negative typo.

"Do we have a top three?" the Boss asks, blundering into Mission Control.

And that's the other thing. If you're going to plagiarize an RFP, you should at least know enough about the topic to understand what you've asked for and what the responses mean.

Which is where the PFY and I come in.

"Top three – we certainly do. I'm thinking 'More Human than Human' by White Zombie, 'Infected (Extended Mix)' by The The, and 'Rise', Public Image Ltd. We're talking music to read tedious RFP responses to, aren't we?"


"Oh, you mean the respondents?" I respond. "Well, let's see. We have several respondents from out-of-country, thanks to your publishing the RFP publicly and not just inviting responses from selected vendors. Those responses have been run through the functional translator."

"The functional translator?" the Boss asks.

"The shredder," the PFY says. "A machine which translates one form of rubbish to a different form of rubbish."

"I … see …"

"I also 'functionally translated' the submissions of everyone who replied in paper given that the RFP clearly said answers had to be electronic."

"Did I put that in there?" the Boss asks.

"No, the person you plagiarized the document off did. They also had a section which indicated that no respondents would be paid for costs involved in the assembly of their response."

"Oh. Good."

"No, no, you deleted that section. But the good news is that you left the document history intact, so everyone can see that you deleted it. They can also see that you probably spent an entire day changing the highlight, underline and bolding of every title and subtitle instead of just editing the document styles."

"Is it bad?"

"The document style?" I ask. "I've seen worse. Not many, but I have seen worse."

"I mean the missing clauses," the Boss asks worriedly.

"Well, you're probably on safe ground if you accept the response of one of the respondents," I say. "Then all you have to argue is that it's common practice that the costs of creating the response are borne by the respondent."

"OK. Let's do that then," he says with a modicum of relief.

"Righto then! Which one do you want to accept, the one costing 220 grand, the one costing 180 grand plus implementation costs – charged at 120 quid an hour – OR the one costing 185 grand which doesn't mention any implementation costs?"

"Sorry?" the Boss asks.

"220k, 180k+ or 185k+," I summarize.

"We … don't have that much money!" he gasps.

"Plus the annual license fees," I add.

The Boss is no doubt contemplating whose role will be disestablished to pay for part of this expense – and/or the legal action arising from not accepting one of the responses.

"But …" he blathers pointlessly.

"Unless …" I say.

"Unless?!?!" he gasps again, reaching for a proffered straw.

"Unless there were a late respondent to the RFP," I say. "Someone who came in well under those respondents."

"Could that happen?"

"You know, I think it could! I know of a local company who'd take 20k, deliver nothing, and never mention this again."

"You mean you?" the Boss asks dryly.

"Myself and my assistant here," I nod.

"In that case I think I know a local company who'd take 15k," the Boss chips back, no doubt planning a visit to the Companies House website in the near future.

"I'm fairly sure the company you're thinking of would be wasting their registration fee – as they won't pass the technical review process. The PFY and myself are named as that team in the RFP."

"I …"

"Oh no! I've just heard that the successful company has just had some additional COVID-related expenses and their price has increased to 21k!" I say. "Should we wait another ten minutes to see if there's any inflation adjustment to that price?"

"I … I'll take it."

"I thought you would. Should I … get them to send the invoice to you now?"

"I …"

"Oh, it looks like they'll need a deposit."

"What for?"

"P&G, stamp duty, window tax?"

"How much?" the Boss sighs.

"How much you got in your man-bag?" the PFY asks.

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