Planners hiring planners. It happens all the time. Every time you hear the familiar acronymistic ring of "RFP" or "RFQ" in regards to a planning topic, that's likely what's going on (although not necessarily -public ofﬁcials without a planning department, for example, also hire consultants with good reason). Yet while most planners and public ofﬁcials are likely familiar with the jargon and perhaps even have a grasp of the overall process right down to its legal foundations, for most, at least some uncertainty remains.
For example, under what sets of circumstances is an RFQ more appropriate than an RFP, and vice versa? What obligations, if any, does a public agency have to each of the respondents to an RFP or RFQ? Has technology and especially the Internet changed the rules of the game substantially?
For those new to the process of screening and hiring planning consultants, or for those who want to learn more, the new and updated Planners Advisory Service (PAS) report Working with Planning Consultants (2013; APA Planners Advisory Service; 72 pp.; $48) will go a long way towards introducing the topic. It is a fairly straightforward but thorough overview of the whole process, and it includes model legal documents such as contracts and scopes of work in its appendices.
This report is an update to a similar PAS report published in 1993. Its author, Eric Damian Kelly, FAICP brings to the table a wealth of planning experience in addition to also being a lawyer. Every step of the process is covered in detail in all their iterations, from making the initial decision to hire a consultant to going over the various types of consulting ﬁrms and typical services they offer, all the way to managing and ﬁnally concluding the project.
Of course, the report serves as a guide and isn't a complete substitute for practical experience - saying that a problem needs to be deﬁned is no substitute for actually deﬁning a real problem, but at least you know the dimensions of the task at hand.
Consultants and those considering trying their hand at consulting may ﬁnd value in it to, since the report also delves into how to establish and manage a good client-consultant relationship, as well as yielding some insights into the rationale for actions by public ofﬁcials.