White Papers

Vendor Management: Constructing a Request for Proposal (RFP)

Considerations for businesses decisions through an RFP.

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A stack of documents near a Request for Proposal and folder options titled A, B, and C

Introduction

This whitepaper has been prepared to assist department decision makers and procurement professionals who would like to use a request for proposal (RFP) as a means to support purchasing decisions for their businesses.

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

An RFP is defined across various sources as:

“A request for proposal (RFP) is a type of bidding solicitation in which a company or organization announces that funding is available for a particular project or program, and companies can place bids for the project’s completion. The Request For Proposal (RFP) outlines the bidding process and contract terms, and provides guidance on how the bid should be formatted and presented. A RFP is typically open to a wide range of bidders, creating open competition between companies looking for work.“Investopedia
“A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that an organization posts to elicit bids from potential vendors for a desired IT solution. The RFP specifies what the customer is looking for and establishes evaluation criteria for assessing proposals.”Techtarget
“…a solicitation, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals”Wikipedia

What are the key stages of the RFP process?

  • Specification (requirements, time, pricing, constraints, etc.)
  • Proposal (vendor response)
  • Evaluation (company evaluates responses)
  • Implementation (with vendor)

Example Table of Contents

1. Introduction………………………………………….. p.1-#

1.1 Company Profile………………………………………………….x

1.1A Description…………………………………………………y
1.1B Products and services…………………………………..y
1.1C Location and geographic area……………………….y
1.1D Organizational chart and employee count……..y

1.2 Department Responsible for RFP…………………………..x
1.3 Background and Business Case……………………………..x
1.4 Current Applications and IT Infrastructure…………….x
1.5 Project Summary and Scope………………………………….x
1.6 Objective of RFP…………………………………………………..x

2. Instructions for Proposed Vendors……………. p.2-#

2.1 Schedule of Major Events and Deadlines (see example in Table 1 below)…..x
2.2 Communication and Inquiries……………………………….x
2.3 Preparation Expenses (Responsibility of Vendor)……x
2.4 Preparation Instructions……………………………………….x

2.4A Description of written format………………………..y
2.4B Exclusions and requirements that cannot be satisfied…..y

2.5 Late Proposals………………………………………………………x
2.6 Submittal Instructions…………………………………………..x

2.6A Submittal checklist……………………………………….y

2.7 Presentations and Demonstrations by Finalist Vendors…..x
2.8 Vendor Selection and Decision Process……………………x

2.8A Criteria used for selection……………………………..y
2.8B Selecting a vendor………………………………………..y

2.9 Contractual Terms and Conditions Required by Company…..x

3. Vendor General Information……………………………………………… p.3-#

3.1 Vendor Profile………………………………………………………x

4. Functional Requirements………………………… p.4-#

4.1 Detailed Description on Systems Needed…………………x
4.2 Current Statistics and Data…………………………………….x

4.2A 6-12-month volume, spend, count, usage of needed services or products…..y

4.3 Hardware and Networking Requirements………………..x
4.4 Software Requirements………………………………………….x

4.4A Programming languages………………………………..y
4.4B Middleware and API requirements…………………y
4.4C Application (or individual module) requirements…..y

4.5 Database Requirements………………………………………….x
4.6 Monitoring and Reporting Requirements…………………x
4.7 Security Requirements……………………………………………x
4.8 Backup Facility Requirements…………………………………x
4.9 Training Requirements…………………………………………..x
4.10 Documentation Requirements……………………………….x
4.11 Installation, Maintenance, and Support Requirements…..x

4.11A De-installation of existing systems………………….y
4.11B Installation plan for new systems……………………y

5. Technical Questions to be Completed by Vendor…..p.5-#

5.1 Closed-ended questions……………………………………………x
5.2 Open-ended questions……………………………………………..x

6. Pricing………………………………………………….. p.6-#

6.1 Pricing schedule instructions…………………………………….x

7. Customer Contacts………………………………….. p.7-#

7.1 Vendor Communications Table (see example in Table 2)…..x

8. Appendices……………………………………………. p.8-#

8.1 Appendix A. Term Glossary……………………………………….x
8.2 Appendix B. Suggested Contractual Terms and Agreement…..x
8.3 Appendix C. Reporting Examples……………………………….x
8.4 Appendix D. Process Flow Examples (of systems or departmental processes)…..x


Examples of Forms and Matrices

Table 1 – Example Schedule of Major Events and Deadlines

Note: a time zone should be specified either under each date in the table, or if the time is the same for all deadlines, the time and time zone can be indicated above the table. For example: “All submissions no later than 11:59pm Central Time Zone on date specified. A.k.a. “time table”, calendar of events”

Vendor Communications

Task Date
Initial issuance of RFP by Company [XX/XX/XX]
Deadline for Vendors to submit questions to content of RFP [XX/XX/XX]
Answers for all relevant questions posted by Company [XX/XX/XX]
Deadline for submission of proposals by Vendors [XX/XX/XX]
Initial evaluation complete. Vendors will be notified of selected finalists (first round) [XX/XX/XX]
Vendor presentations scheduled with Company [XX/XX/XX]
Company selects final Vendor for recommendation to the Board of Directors/Executive Team [XX/XX/XX]
Contract awarded to Vendor [XX/XX/XX]
Preferred commencement date of project implementation [XX/XX/XX]

 

Table 2 – Example Vendor Communications Table

Note: if submitting with a partnered organization, please add communication information for the partner as well.

Form B Information
Primary Contact First Name Last Name
Email person@companyxyz.com
Phone (XXX) XXX-XXXX
Address Address, City, State, Zip
Description of serivices provided in Scope X Services; Y Services

Form A Information
Primary Contact First Name Last Name
Email person@companyxyz.com
Phone (XXX) XXX-XXXX
Address Address, City, State, Zip
Description of serivices provided in Scope X Services; Y Services

Table 3 – Example Vendor Evaluation Matrix

Categories Weight Final Score Initial Score Final Score Initial Score Final Score Initial Score
Firm 5% 0.2 4 0.25 5 0.2 4
People 10% 0.3 3 0.3 3 0.4 4
Philosophy 5% 0.1 0.15 3 0.15 3
Process 10% 0.5 5 0.3 3 0.3 3
Portfolio 5% 0.2 4 0.2 4 0.25 5
Fees 15% 0.6 4 0.6 4 0.75 5
Performance 30% 0.9 3 1.5 5 1.5 5
Systems 20% 0.6 3 0.8 4 0.8 4
Other 0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Weighted Total 100% 3.4   4.1   4.35  


Further Considerations

What factors might companies consider when creating RFP requirements or questions?

1.) Ask questions that allow you to objectively compare the responses.
The question should be comparable through the defined decision criteria. For example, metrics can be requested as well as a narrative that explains them – i.e. productivity, hours, costs, etc.

2.) Choose open and closed-ended questions for appropriate situations.
If the answer is truly a “yes/no” response, then simplify the process by asking a closed-ended question. Answers that require open-ended responses should be vetted through your decision criteria to see if they can be evaluated appropriately. For all questions, you can test run their clarity by requesting them with people who aren’t involved in developing the questions.

3.) Determine the technical complexity and industry expertise required to answer appropriately.
Do the questions include esoteric terms that can only be answered by a few specialized people in your industry? If it is not required that the vendor has the same industry technical expertise in a subject, then questions should be reworded appropriately. Another way to support technical questions is to provide a term glossary.

4.) Develop a plan that allows you to objectively analyze vendor responses.
Divide closed-ended questions and open-ended questions into sections

  • Have the business unit leaders apply weights to questions that impact their line of business most. This exercise is for both open and closed-ended questions.
  • Note: When scoring questions, you can consider the size, level of effort, duration, quality, likelihood of occurrence (i.e. minimum, probably, likely), and other factors for that particular category. See Table 3 for example categories.
    • 1 – Not important
    • 2 – Less important
    • 3 – Neutral
    • 4 – Important
    • 5 – Very important
  • For closed-ended questions, apply a score:
    • 1 – Yes
    • 0 – No
  • For open-ended question, apply a score (example below):
    • 1 – Poor answer
    • 2 – fair answer
    • 3 – Average answer
    • 4 – Good answer
    • 5 – Excellent answer

About Core Catalysts

Core Catalysts is a management consulting firm based in Kansas City, and we serve clients across the U.S. in various industries. Core Catalysts provides services such as process improvement, product/service commercialization, revenue enhancement, financial modeling, program/project management, software selection, enterprise risk management and business performance improvement through a team that is composed of results oriented individuals.

Authors

Nathan Ross
Consultant
Nathan.Ross@corecatalysts.com

Key Contacts

Jim Wadella
Managing Member
Jim.Wadella@corecatalysts.com

Jo Anne Gabbert
Corporate Development
Joanne.Gabbert@corecatalysts.com

Greg Wallman
Senior Manager
Greg.Wallman@corecatalysts.com

Andrew Miller
Alliance Management, Business Development
Andrew.Miller@corecatalysts.com


Disclaimer

This resource is for informational purposes only. Core Catalysts, LLC. does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information, and the information does not constitute accounting, financial, investment, tax, legal, or other professional advice, nor are we suggesting the information replace such professional advice. Before making an important business decision, please consult a qualified professional.

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Works Cited

“A Guide to Writing a Request for Proposal – How to let providers propose creative, relevant, and cost-effective solutions by focusing on the end, not the means.” Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), n.d. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.werc.org/assets/1/assetmanager/rfpwritingguide.pdf

 

Andriyanets, Yulia. “Request for Proposal (RFP) – In the area of computer hardware/software/services.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 31 May 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.slideshare.net/Mike97/request-for-proposal-rfp-in-the-area-of-computer-hardware?qid=a408d996-243f-42a8-8cf9-dfc46b8ec163&v=&b=&from_search=2

 

Core Catalysts, LLC. miscellaneous proprietary documentation and methodologies. Retrieved 6 July 2016.

 

Heeringen, Harold van. “Request for Proposal (RFP) Management – Ask the right questions and choose wisely.” LinkedIn SlideShare, June 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.slideshare.net/haroldveendam/request-for-proposal-rfp-management-ask-the-right-questions-and-choose-wisely?qid=a408d996-243f-42a8-8cf9-dfc46b8ec163&v=&b=&from_search=5

 

Huening, Nathan. “How to Write a Great Website RFP – with a little guidance, you’ll be writing them like a pro.” New Media Campaigns, 16 Dec. 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.newmediacampaigns.com/blog/website-design-request-for-proposal-template-tips

 

Investopedia.com. “Request for Proposal – RFP.” Investopedia, 10 Jan. 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/request-for-proposal.asp

 

Kutcher, David. “How to write Requests for Proposals (RFP) for best results.” Confluent Forms LLC., 19 June 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.confluentforms.com/2009/06/6-steps-to-writing-better-request-for.html

 

Mike97. “Corporate Email Archive Solution – Sample Request for Proposal.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 1 Jan. 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.slideshare.net/Mike97/corporate-email-archive-solutiondocdoc?qid=a408d996-243f-42a8-8cf9-dfc46b8ec163&v=&b=&from_search=27

 

“Request for proposal.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Oct. 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_proposal

 

Rouse, Margaret. “What is request for proposal (RFP)? – definition from WhatIs.com.” Contributors: John Moore. SearchITChannel, Apr. 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://searchitchannel.techtarget.com/definition/request-for-proposal

 

TechSoup. “RFP Library – Tips and sample RFPs for your nonprofit, charity, or library.” TechSoup, 2 Feb. 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from http://www.techsoup.org/support/articles-and-how-tos/rfp-library