Competitive Selection

Bidding Process - Using a Request for Quotation or Using a Request for Proposal

When preparing to purchase equipment, supplies, or services, thought should be given to the request that will be sent to suppliers. At ISU, pricing is requested by either direct bidding based on known equipment specifications and performance (Request for Quotation or RFQ) or by stating performance criteria and inviting suppliers to propose equipment, systems, or services to achieve the desired level of performance (Request for Proposal or RFP).

As a general rule, equipment should be bid using an RFQ if there is a particular item or system on the market that will meet your requirements. Proposals should be requested if you are uncertain whether there is an item or system available to produce the results you hope to obtain.

A Request for Proposal is the most flexible way for requesting bids. Because a proposal is result driven, it allows the end user(s) to consider a variety of bid solutions for a given situation.

Feel free to discuss your needs with a procurement agent, who can help you determine the best process for a particular acquisition.


Bid Specifications and Requirements for Quotations and for Proposals

Perhaps the most important aspect of purchasing in a public institution is the development of product/service specifications for bidding. The Iowa Board of Regents and Federal Government both require fair and open competition based on generic specifications. Careful formulation of bid specifications will help ensure that offered items meet your needs. Bids not meeting your requirements can be rejected if the original specifications were objective and based on the necessary function and performance of the items or services desired. The Procurement Services Department encourages faculty and staff involvement in preparing bid specifications.

Bid Overview

When preparing specifications, it is helpful to begin with a brief statement describing how the goods or services will be used. This allows suppliers to provide an offering more suited to your requirements and can be of assistance should the products or services later prove unsatisfactory.



Specifications for goods should be based on the functional or technical performance of the products. Considerations such as:

  • Uniformity
  • Resolution
  • Durability
  • Power Output
  • Reliability
  • Processor speed
  • Sensitivity
  • Ability to Run a Specific Software
  • Stability
  • Ability to Perform Desired Task
  • Expansion Capability
  • Methodology

Specifications for services should be based on your needs with a detailed outline of how you expect the services to be performed, with specific timelines and performance benchmarks clearly defined for each time period.

Proprietary features must not be included in the specifications unless your required use is dependent upon performance derived from such features.

As a public institution, we must avoid making specifications too restrictive and, thus, preventing competition. Features, which do not have a direct bearing on the product’s performance as it relates to your intended use, should not be included. If your specifications are too "tight", you may find that a product, which is able to meet your functional requirements and is less costly, may have to be rejected for not meeting specifications. In this case, your requirements may need to be rebid with revised specifications. Bid documents are considered to be legal offers to buy. If a supplier should suspect that specifications have been written expressly to eliminate his or her products from consideration, that supplier may elect to protest the bid or the resultant award.


Performance/Testing Statement

Specifications should conclude with a brief statement of the expected performance of the products. This may also be stated as a formal performance test. Test results may be required as a submittal with the supplier's bid response and used as an evaluation criteria. A required performance standard may need to be demonstrated before the product is accepted and payment is made.

Developing specifications for proposals is somewhat different than the process listed above. When preparing the requirements for a request for proposal, the required performance must be clearly defined. Suppliers are free to propose alternate products or services that will meet required performance standards. Submission of test data or product samples may be required as part of your specifications. Data may be from samples, which suppliers submit as part of the proposal process, or be the results of tests performed on known standards.

For specialized purchases, multiple award criteria may also be specified. ISU's basic criteria include such considerations as the ability to meet functional specifications, cost, references, warranty, and delivery. Additional criteria can be added to meet specific needs and help in the selection of compliant products.


Bid Limits

Value Classification Minimum Bid Requirements
$1 - $25,000 Supplies and Equipment Orders may be processed based on estimated cost. Quotes from at least one supplier may be prudent.

$25,001- 49,999


Supplies and Equipment

Requires an informal bidding process to be performed by Procurement Services. This may entail receiving several quotes or a bid process.

$5,000 - $25,000 Equipment Procurement agent's discretion is utilized to determine pricing method and need for competitive bidding. Any equipment purchase requires a minimum of one offer or quote be obtained to establish fixed pricing.
$50,000 and above  Supplies and Equipment Requires formal competitive bidding process be followed

* Competitions from an adequate number of sources or some price reasonableness evaluation may be performed and documented to ensure ISU is paying a reasonable price especially when federal funding at any level is being utilized.  Competition or quotes is the preferred method

** Equipment with a unit cost greater than $1,000,000 and less than $2,000,000 will be submitted to the Board Office COO for approval. Equipment costing more than $2,000,000 will be submitted to the Board COO for approval and at the discretion of the COO may be submitted to the full Board for approval.

Bids $50,000 and above generally are issued for a minimum of 14 days. Formal sealed bids (complex projects or price only criteria) generally are issued for at least 30 days. Bid solicitations may be issued for longer than the period indicated, should the situation warrant.

Federal grant recipients may be required to utilize federal small businesses for some items purchased on the grant. In some cases, federal procurement practices will differ from those of the University. For more information concerning purchasing on a federal grant or contract, please contact Sponsored Programs Accounting (294-4569) or the Procurement Services Department (294-4860).