You’ve done your research and found potential vendors. Nice job! Now it’s time to develop and release your request for proposal (RFP). While this may seem like a difficult and daunting process, you can break it down into three simple steps.
Step 1: Think it through and align resources
- Determine the RFP scope. You need to understand your business challenge, the type of solution needed to address the challenge, and then be able to convey everything effectively to vendors. The scope is critical because it is a guideline and foundation for building your RFP.
- Decide which subject matter experts and management you will need to engage within your organization to write, review and approve requirements. At minimum, each area that is affected by the business challenge and that will be using the new solution should have a stake in the RFP.
- Develop a timeline and work backward. Start with your expected award date, demonstration, clarification, evaluation, and vendor submission timeframes. Make sure to also include the time it will take to build the RFP itself and obtain management approval to release it.
- Once you have a clear and concise plan for your RFP, it’s time to begin developing it.
Step 2: Build your RFP
- Before you begin building the RFP, you need to determine what format you will use such as Microsoft Word and/or Microsoft Excel or an electronic sourcing system. Each format has its pros and cons, so decide which one will provide the greatest value for your RFP process.
- Pro Tip: Building and repurposing templates can be helpful, especially for sections common to most of your RFPs. For common questions, using a template is quicker than creating an RFP from scratch each time – saving you time now and later.
- Arrange all sections of the RFP so the information flows logically. This will help vendors understand your RFP and can result in better quality responses that will help speed up your evaluation process. For example, reading the company intro, project scope, timeline, evaluation process, and then legal terms and conditions will provide background and explain the RFP before the vendor responds to the requirements. They will have a better understanding of how to respond and, in turn, your evaluation team will likely spend less time developing clarification questions and reviewing additional responses.
- Be clear and concise with your instructions. If you are using an existing RFP template, make sure to delete any previously written instructions that conflict with new instructions you add to the document. Likewise, be sure to remove previous requirements that are not necessary for the current requested solution. This will eliminate confusion and reduce vendor inquiries.
Step 3: Release your RFP
- Prepare and distribute pre-release communication to your potential vendors alerting them that the RFP will release soon and provide the date.
- Release the RFP.
- Provide a timeframe and method for vendors to ask clarification questions.
- Monitor the process. Using an electronic sourcing tool will streamline this process – you can configure your system to see if vendors are responding and when they encounter issues such as system lockout. Using email as your primary channel for communication does not allow you to proactively monitor issues your vendors may encounter. Pro tip: If you’re using an electronic sourcing tool, consider having your vendor provide help desk support to eliminate additional time you may otherwise spend assisting system users.
- Receive bid submissions and begin your internal evaluation process.
- Pro Tip: Have a contingency plan in place in case of unforeseen problems. For example, you may have to extend a deadline based on a vendor request or your bid system may encounter issues.
Now that you have issued your RFP and received responses, you are ready to evaluate. Wasn’t that much easier when you break it down into simple steps?
Stay tuned for the next blog in our series, 6 Best Practices for Evaluating RFP Responses for even more tips and best practices.
Kris McMurray is an APMP certified proposal and content specialist lead with 15 years of experience in the proposal industry.