RFPs (Requests for Proposal) help determine who offers the best solutions and value for projects and problems faced by the public and private sectors. Over the years, I have been on both sides of the RFP process – writing and responding – and have learned a lot along the way.
If you’re not overly familiar with RFP’s, I recommend reading https://rfp360.com/rfp-evaluation-criteria/
When issuing an RFP, it's important to create your RFP evaluation criteria early. In fact, it should be one of the very first steps in your RFP process.
As a respondent, RFPs can be a considerable time and money commitment with no guarantee of a return. Further to this, hunting through a 20 page document to understand what the ask is and no direction on budgets, can add to the complexity around deciding to reply or not. As a result, some vendors opt not to respond to RFPs and instead go after direct relationship work. In my experience, the vendor has between 2 and 5 employees dedicated to gathering the necessary support documents like case studies (which may need to be built out) and crafting their responses. This means reallocating resources to unpaid and nonguaranteed work, which can impact the ability to take on smaller work, especially if their client’s sector relies heavily on RFPs.
On the writing side, this is a time-consuming process but essential to make sure the vendors have a clear understanding and that your team has all the information necessary to make the right decision. RFPs also provide backing for why decisions were made and can eliminate the question of favouritism at play.
The standard process for preparing an RFP to go out typically involves:
Defining the project, needs and desired outcomes or outputs.
Writing an introduction and explaining the company’s and project’s history.
Outlining the project’s requirements
Explaining how vendors should respond
Clarification on the selection criteria
Noting important timelines
Determine if vendors will be invited to respond or if the RFP will be made public
Approval by key stakeholders
Research vendors to be invited
The other, more time-consuming piece is reviewing and selecting the best vendor from the submitted RFPs. For reviewers, this usually involves a minimum of 45 minutes to review each proposal and additional time to compare the proposals. Throughout my career, this process has included a pad of post-It’s, a pad of paper filled with scribbles I can’t read days later, and many discussions to check for alignment with my fellow reviewers.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of a review community that utilized RFP Management software that made the comparison process much easier, and I am excited to share this with you.
There are a plethora of options out there to choose from, and each holds its own merits. Selecting the right one for your industry is essential and will take some time, but once you’ve found one that works for your organization, it will make your review process way more manageable and more effective. My favourite features are:
Being able to see the responses to each of the project requirements side by side
Evaluation of each response through a point system which is then compiled for an overall score
Ability to see outliers from the reviewer’s evaluations and address those if alignment doesn’t exist
Here are some of the options available to you.
Have you had experience with RFP software? I’d love to hear your thoughts.