Do's and Don’ts of Creating an Effective RFP
20 years ago, Request for Proposals were standard practice for companies seeking to procure a commodity, service, or valuable asset. They were cumbersome, time-consuming, and failed to consider the future needs of the organization. While RFPs are no longer as prevalent, they are sometimes a necessary element for those soliciting long-term business transactions with servicing companies. If a request for proposal is a requisite part of your business’ bidding process, you will want to make sure it’s succinct, yet complete in answering all the necessary questions.
It is important to remember that your relationship with a Workplace Management software vendor is one you will want to continue well past implementation completion; one that will expand and grow with your organizational needs. You will require ongoing support, regular software updates, and, depending upon your initial investment, the integration of additional modules as the business progresses. Your RFP is an opportunity to share with the vendor what you are trying to accomplish, what the needs of the company are, as well as the parameters and expectations for the software and time budget.
Given our chosen industry, we have seen hundreds of RFPs cross our desks. Here are a few words of advice based on our experiences and knowledge of Workplace Management solutions.
Your Request for Proposal Should Be Broken down into Three Major Sections
The introduction section should offer a brief synopsis of your company’s history and mission. This is also your opportunity to share with prospects your goals for project implementation and your vision for the business’ future.
The product section should consist of what will be needed for the implementation project. How many users will need sign-in information? What types of systems are you currently working with and how many of these will need to be integrated with the new software? Do you prefer to host yourself or invest in a SaaS?
The functional requirements section should go into greater detail regarding what the system should be able to do and how you need it to integrate within the company. For best results, formatting should be in question form and broach the subjects of: security, technical needs, reporting and analytics, general functionality, and details regarding each module you are considering.
Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful RFP
The more information you offer in your RFP, the more likely you are to find that holy grail - the provider relationship your business will benefit from for many years to come. With that in mind, allow us to share a few do’s and don’ts that will increase your chances of achieving just that.
Do: Include a questionnaire requesting specifics regarding the candidates’ protocol regarding training, ongoing support, design, and the implementation process. Include a project timeline to include actions both on your part and that of the vendor.
Don’t: Assume anything or leave requirement details out, just because you have already spoken with a representative from the company. This is an opportunity for you to put all your expectations out on the table and your investment is in an innovative, functioning, and user-friendly tool.
Do: Contact a range of candidates. Casting a wide net will ensure you have aligned yourself with the vendor most qualified to meet ALL your needs.
Don’t: Limit yourself just because one candidate already stands out to you as the most likely choice. Your final choice will likely lie in details you hadn’t originally placed a lot of importance on.
Do: Ask for references. And follow through by contacting them.
Don’t: Rely solely on reference calls. Talk to colleagues within your industry. Read reviews and case studies. Collect as much information you can regarding the vendor and their reputation.
Do: Interview each candidate and hold them accountable for each answer.
Don’t: Feel limited in the interview process. Ideally, interviews should take place both at your company and theirs. This will give you an opportunity to feel out the connection and see how representatives work under pressure and in different settings.
Do: Ask for a breakdown in pricing. Request details regarding the cost of training, licensing fees, potential hardware purchase requirements, etc. Leave no room for error or misinterpretation, or you create the potential for surprises in your budget later on down the line.
Don’t: Do not base your decision solely on price. Cost is not the only factor when seeking out a long-term partnership. We understand there are budgetary constraints, but it is difficult to put a price on the tool that will help your company realize its full growth potential.
Your goal is to identify the vendor that will best partner with you in providing long-term solutions for your business challenges. A well thought-out proposal will offer candidates the tools needed to provide you the facts required to choose a robust, affordable solution. You will never know with 100% certainty but, armed with the right information, you will have enough to go with your gut and feel confident in your choice.