Defining RFP Requirements: Get Stakeholder Input Early

Sourcing the right vendor for your next project will start with gathering all your RFP requirements. (Request for Proposal: a process by which companies solicit bids for goods and services)

The RFP itself is a formal document that defines a project’s requirements and goals, outlines project criteria, and poses questions to help validate the most qualified vendors. Interested vendors then provide responses (in print or through the issuing company’s online RFP portal) to the RFP in the form of bids.

Ultimately, an RFP is intended to help form a new partnership between a company and a vendor that provides a successful outcome for both. Therefore, nailing your RFP requirements is the most critical step in ensuring this first step of the project gets off on the right foot.

While an RFP isn’t always necessary, many companies find them an effective tool for attracting a well-aligned pool of vendors and comparing prices and strategies. However, to attract those right vendors, the RFP requirements must be gathered and proposed in an effective manner.

A big part of that execution is the inclusion of the right project stakeholders in the RFP development process.

Stakeholders define the RFP requirements

Any procurement project requiring an RFP will likely affect many different stakeholder groups within an organization. These stakeholders range from subject area experts involved in the actual implementation of the new good or service (like IT) to those who will actually have to use that good or service in the long run (like your sales or production teams).

stakeholder groups who should be involved in the RFP requirements
Here are a few of the stakeholder groups who should be involved in the RFP requirements gathering process:

1. End-users

End users are those who will be impacted by the new service or product. This could be a single department. Or it could be wide-reaching involving IT, Operations, Sales, Manufacturing, Finance, Legal, HR, just to name a few.

2. Subject area experts

For complicated projects or regulated industries, plan to get insights from a service area expert. Your in-house team has limited exposure to products and services, so recruit a Managed Service Provider for technology or a Group Purchasing Organization for medical purchases. You wouldn’t lease property without a realtor, would you?

3. Finance

RFPs are costly to run and the projects they solicit are usually tied to large spending. In addition, the genesis of a procurement project will often be to save money on an existing contract. Involving the finance team will be critical throughout your procurement process.

4. Decision-makers

Nobody likes to be forced into a decision. Involving key decision-makers throughout the RFP process will ensure that final decisions are made quickly.

5. Legal

Although RFPs are not in themselves legal documents, the contracts you sign with future vendors are. Ensure that the RFP requirements include questions to protect your organization.

6. Procurement

Last and not least, is the procurement team. If you are reading this article, then you are likely in a procurement or purchasing role. Your success will be based on successfully gathering the RFP requirements and completing the RFP preparation on time and on budget.

So which stakeholders should you include? Read “Do you have the right people on your RFP team?” to find out.

The benefits of getting RFP stakeholder input

Now that you have identified all the stakeholders for your RFP, here are a few things a comprehensive stakeholder team will help you determine:

Thorough RFP requirements

Your RFP requirements clearly define what you are looking for in potential bids and help solicit complete bids and identify the right vendors quickly. They should also fully capture the needs of all those impacted by the project — which you have already covered by including all affected stakeholders.

Achievable timelines

Establishing a project timeline sets goals for internal teams to work towards, sets parameters on the duration of a project, and is critical to keeping associated costs under control.

Before establishing a timeline, it will be important to determine reasonable turn-around times by parties involved and weigh those against your project goals. Sitting down with all affected stakeholders and learning their critical launch dates will guide the formulation of the overall project timeline.

Clearly defined budget

Like the timeline, most significant capital projects are driven by an allocated budget. That budget sets the parameters for the project and plays a major role in determining vendor selection.

While upper limits of the budget must be established, a budget must also be realistic of the full scope of work required to execute the project with success. This is where stakeholder input is critical.

Next steps to defining RFP requirements

Tasked with managing the RFP preparation, you might be feeling overwhelmed, but the best RFPs are a group effort. Initially, it may seem like more work to include more people. But involving stakeholders early will ensure the success of your RFP project.

Finally, managing an RFP the traditional way involves juggling emails meetings, document versions, and tracking the review process. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

RFP management software like DirectRFP® consolidates all communication and the RFP preparation in one easy-to-use platform. Stakeholders only have access to assigned areas, and changes and reviews all take place within the platform. You get a single pane view of your entire RFP project.

To learn more about the capabilities of DirectRFP® and how we can help you run better RFPs, contact us at or call 916-757-1100.