How to prepare a request for proposal

An RFP, crucial for complex projects, helps in selecting the best IT company by detailing project needs, timelines, and evaluation criteria, ensuring mutual understanding and informed decision-making.

The “must” not only for the best

A request for proposal (RFP) is generally used for complex projects, and it helps specify the nature of the project. It discloses the evaluation criteria for proposals in order to select the best IT company for the job. It serves as a project funding announcement by a business or organisation, and from there, IT companies can place bids to complete the project. An RFP is generally sent to a handful of outsourcing companies shortlisted as potential candidates for a particular project. An RFP makes creating long-term business relationships easier for both parties to meet each other’s expectations.

The document describes the project’s requirements and expectations and outlines the bidding process and contract terms and conditions. It is tailored specifically to the organisation’s needs and is crucial in ensuring the future efficiency of businesses. It is vital to achieving balance: the proposal should not be so detailed that it limits the creative freedom of possible contractors nor so vague that bidders are confused as to how they should approach the project.

The more necessary details are in the RFP, the more likely you will choose a suitable IT company that will meet the organisation’s goals. A key benefit of putting out an RFP is getting multiple bids, which allows the organisation to make an informed decision.

How does it work?

The process will typically begin by drafting an RFP. During the drafting process, the organisation should consider their goals, what is necessary and what is possible to achieve. The selected bidders will then review the draft and provide feedback for improvements. After implementing these suggestions, the final RFP is posted. The organisation then negotiates with bidders on prices and the details of the tasks. The organisation may then ask bidders to submit their best offer before awarding a contract to the IT company they deem most suitable.

It is crucial to consider the company’s status and the bidder’s ability to do what they propose when reviewing bids. When deciding on the winner, the organisation should look at the strengths and weaknesses of various proposals and evaluate which compare best with their values — for example, whether they would prioritise the lowest cost, fastest production or highest quality.

What’s inside?

It is worth including in the RFP a description of the tasks that are to be performed by the winning bidder and a timeline or set of deadlines they should follow. The RFP should also include information helpful to the bidder about the organisation and how it conducts its business. It should also guide bidders in responding to the proposal by stating which information they will provide.

The document should be divided into sections such as:

  • introduction
  • requirements
  • selection criteria
  • timeline and processes

The introduction will explain why the organisation publishes the RFP and what they hope to achieve. It may also summarise key points from other sections, such as the bid due date.

The requirements section will specify to the prospective IT companies what the organisation is looking to achieve — for example, what type of systems they want the software to be written for (bespoke software, systems integration, mobile app, reporting software, etc).

The selection criteria will explain how the winning bid is chosen (for example, by the lowest price or fastest promised delivery time).

The timelines will provide a set of deadlines to prospective contractors and a guideline for how long processes are expected to take. The processes section will explain how the collaboration process will go between sending out the RFP, awarding the contract and beginning the work.

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