The Project Selection Tool is designed to aid contractors in picking projects that are most suitable to their firm’s expertise and have the most likely prospects of success for all stakeholders. But what about owners and designers? Historically many have limited their contractor selection criteria to the low bidder. How can owners and designers reduce the risk of project failure with a more thoughtful selection of the contractor? In other words, where is their Contractor Selection Tool?

People First

For the last twenty years, Simplar’s Expertise-driven Project Delivery approach has been utilized on projects ranging in size from over $1.5 billion to less than $100 thousand. Expertise-driven Project Delivery research has proven that what matters most in successful construction projects is the level of expertise of the actual key people performing the work and how early that team is involved in project planning. 

Building an owner’s Contractor Selection Tool as a companion to the contractor’s Project Selection Tool begins with people, not money. 

Jake Smithwick, Ph.D. (Simplar)

“When selecting a contractor, it’s very important to look at the actual people who will be doing the work. If we agree that it’s ‘all about the people’, then the procurement process should be laser-focused on identifying the expertise of these key people.  Some traits to look for in high performers:

  • Speaks as a leader and not a manager (they are a partner in the process and align the frontline team with where they will be most successful).
  • It’s all about the project (whatever is in the best interest of the project is what we should do).
  • Short, concise answers (longwinded, storytelling of answers is incredibly difficult to follow and reduces our ability to easily distinguish what the actual plan is)
  • Can identify the sources of risk and how they will mitigate the risk (we have found that one of the most prevalent traits of an expert is their ability to see and minimize risk… this is what we should be asking them about, not looking at a pretty resume!” (Smithwick)

This people-first approach is the conceptual basis of Expertise-driven Project Delivery and makes the process a sort of a Contractor Selection Tool.

Statement of Work

After the project owner or their designers have identified the most expert team to build their project, the next step is to put that team to work by communicating clearly the wants and needs of the owner. 

Smithwick – “My recommendation is to focus on the typical pain points in the procurement process: 

  • Create an effective statement of work (regardless of what kind of project it is).
  • Streamline the proposal evaluation process (Who’s ever had to sift through 500-page proposals?). 
  • Conduct interviews with the key people. 
  • Clarify final project expectations before signing any contract.”

Final project expectations are expressed by a simplified Statement of Work.

Smithwick – “An effective Statement of Work has the following six components, organized as follows:

  1. Overview & Purpose – concisely describe the “what” & “why” of the project.
  2. Current Conditions – current starting point; how do things run as of today?
  3. Future State – departures from current conditions.
  4. Itemized Requirements – an organized list of mandatory items and ‘nice to haves.’
  5. Schedule & Budget – provide any key dates. List your actual budget ($) in the Statement of Work.
  6. Unique Considerations – any other relevant supplemental information.”

Simplify to Clarify

This second step is designed to clarify what is expected of the contractor by simplifying the Statement of Work. 

Smithwick – “When owners use an efficient procurement process (e.g., Expertise-driven Project Delivery or XPD, see to learn more), there is less of a need to deliver a perfect Statement of Work. Our goal should be to hire expert vendors who know the best way to deliver what we want.” 

Contractor Selection Tool – A Paradigm Shift

Unlike the Project Selection Tool, the Contractor Selection Tool has not yet been reduced to a data-driven selection tool. The beauty is in the paradigm shift. Simply stated, individual expert personnel (not companies) deliver projects on time and on budget so the key to efficient contractor selection is identifying the experts who will construct your project, then simply telling them what you want. They will figure out how to do it. 

That is a paradigm shift away from the old contractor’s brand being enough to clinch the deal if the bid is accepted. 

Simplar’s XPD process is, in effect, a Contractor Selection Tool.

For more information on the Project Selection Tool, read more at:

For a broader view on choosing the right contractor, read more here:

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