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Qualification Based Selection – Part 2

QBS-12262014In my previous post, I attempted to make the case for using Qualification Based Selection (QBS) as the value-add approach to acquiring professional services, specifically professional engineering services.

There are two kinds of typical purchases: commodities and professional services.

Commodities, at least in my world, include items such as wrist watches, socks, pork bellies, printer paper, coffee filters and toilet paper. When I need to buy any of these things I make my choice based on low price.

If I still wore a wristwatch, and I do not, I certainly have buying options. I can go to Walmart and pick up something for a low price. It will tell me the time and not embarrass me when I’m wearing it in public.

Occasionally, I see ads for high-end watches. Apparently, if a timepiece is very expensive, I cannot call it a watch. It has to be a chronograph. It will cost me tens of thousands of dollars. It will tell me the time and definitely make a statement when I wear it in public. It will also remind me when my next colonoscopy is due. More on this later.

The most common professional services we buy are those of a medical nature: physicians, optometrists, dentists, etc. The cost for these services is a factor, but not nearly as important as the competency and experience of the professional. These services, which include professional engineering, are best acquired by use of the QBS process.

How does the QBS process work? Using engineering services, here’s an example:

Step 1 – Select the most qualified firms

  • Develop a detailed description of the project and the desired services
  • Determine the criteria by which you will evaluate the firms
  • Request a Statement of Qualifications from qualified, interested firms
  • Evaluate a short list of firms based on the predetermined criteria
  • Interview the firms and rank them

Step 2 – Develop final scope and contract terms with the highest-ranked firm

  • Take advantage of the experience and expertise of the firm
  • Allow the firm to provide value by suggesting alternate design options
  • Mutually agree on scope and approach to work
  • Please note, if negotiations with top firm are unsuccessful, repeat Step 2 with the next highest-ranked firm.


Step 3 – Retain the firm based on their proposal

  • Ask for estimate of fees to perform the scope of work
  • Reach final agreement on fees and contract terms
  • Retain the firm by finalizing a written contract
  • Please note, if negotiations with top firm are unsuccessful, repeat Step 2 with the next highest-ranked firm.

Experience has shown the following benefits occur when using the QBS approach:

  • You benefit from a trusted advisor relationship
  • Your team gains expanded experience and competence
  • A partner whose goal is to help you solve your problems
  • A professional who is able to research innovative solutions and alternatives for your project

For those of us of a certain age, colonoscopies are a routine part of our existence. To be honest, I do not want this procedure to go to the lowest bidder. If the doctor launches the “inner space probe” and finds something that needs to be removed, I do not want to repeat the process at a later date because the low bidder only agreed to go have a look around. When the sleepy time is over, I want the professional to have taken care of it ALL the first time. I will gladly pay a reasonable price for this service.

In conclusion, I will move from inner space to outer space, and give one of America’s most famous astronauts the last word:

“It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
– Alan Shepard

About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.