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5 Steps to a Successful RFP Process

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With the emergence of new technologies, new business models, and competitive pricing pressures, many enterprises are considering how to best manage their technology needs. A solid RFP process can be a valuable tool in this effort. Take these steps to create an RFP process that gets you the quality technology and IT services you need at a competitive price. 

1. Identify the RFP Team and Project Requirements

Your team should include a project manager, field experts, and contributors. As a team, you will develop the project requirements, which should clearly outline your budget and needs. However, you should avoid including more focused specifics than necessary when drafting the requirements; you may end up getting precisely what you ask for and nothing more. You can benefit from letting the product experts come up with a tailored solution that matches your unique needs. 

For example, if you're shopping around for a security system and your requirements specify five cameras, the proposals you receive will provide only for five cameras. However, if your requirements state that you need an all-in-one solution for your 500-person office with controlled-access rooms, your proposals might include fingerprint scanners and automatic door locks. Remember, product experts have solutions that may be more cost effective than what you had in mind.

  1. 2. Create a Pricing Template and RFP Overview Document

The pricing template plays a crucial role in ensuring that you can effectively compare proposals from different vendors. The template should break down your needs into components. Using the above example, a factor on the proposal might be surveillance of 5000 square feet of open office space. Pricing becomes more transparent when vendors submit costs for components rather than the project as a whole. If you use a spreadsheet, be sure to leave space for vendors to leave clarifying comments to foster accurate communication. 

The overview should include

  • A project timeline
  • Delivery instructions
  • Contact and company information
  • Deadlines for document submission

A comprehensive overview saves time and streamlines the process so you receive targeted responses.

3. Collect Responses

Vet vendors before the proposal process begins. It is vital to research suppliers before you send invitations to submit proposals. Get recommendations from trusted professionals or past service providers to begin creating your list. 

Be sure to determine the format for submitting responses before you send out your RFP. For example, will you receive them manually via email, or should suppliers upload completed proposals to a Dropbox? Answering these essential questions before the process begins will eliminates the need to scour several different locations to compile submissions.

If you often spend an inordinate amount of time scrounging around for lost documents or missing responses, you may want to automate this process. DirectRFP collects and stores responses, so you never have to waste time searching for them.

  1. 4. Grade Proposals with a Scoring Matrix

A scoring matrix gives you an objective, quantifiable way to compare vendors and their proposals. The first step is to develop a grading rubric. At minimum, the rubric should include the project's technical requirements. Other graded aspects will depend on your company’s specific needs and mission. For example, you might weigh how a vendor’s prices compare to other suppliers, the qualifications of their service providers, and even whether the business offsets carbon emissions.

Next, you’ll assign every item in your rubric a numerical value, so that all values add up to 100. The value of each scored item should correspond to its importance. For example, if low prices are the most important factor for your company, then pricing should have the highest value. If this process seems daunting, procurement management software can make the RFP process easier with pre-built templates and grading criteria. Once your rubric is complete, it's time to start grading. 

  1. 5. Interview a Short List of Vendors and Make Recommendations

Many things look better on paper than in practice. So, after grading, invite shortlisted suppliers to demonstrate their products or services for you. Beware of sales tactics and flashy shows of technology during the presentation, and ask vendors how they would respond to real-world scenarios. Their performance will give you the most comprehensive picture of their problem-solving abilities.

Project managers often have to present higher-level contracts to executive management. Even though you aren't the vendor, it’s important to prepare well for this presentation. Company leaders want to ensure that you did a sweeping review and awarded the contract to the best supplier, not simply the first to respond.

Be prepared to leaf through papers or scroll through documents to answer any left-field questions. RFP software can make this simpler by keeping all necessary documents, comments, and vendor scores conveniently organized in one place

Automation for a Successful RFP Process

If you do the RFP process wrong, you risk not finding any vendors that meet your needs or hiring one that’s ill-equipped for the job. Either scenario results in wasted time and reduced return on investment (ROI).  

Tools like DirectRFP, LinkSource's proprietary RFP software, can assist buyers in building a successful RFP process to strategically source technology contracts. Browse our blog
  1. to learn more about getting the most out of your business technology services.