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It's no secret that responding to an RFP is an expensive
and time-consuming piece of work, too. If you craft your RFP in too general a fashion,
you'll create a formidable challenge for unfortunate vendors who will have to go back and
forth asking you to make the questions more specific and then answering these questions.
analyzing your needs in detail and making sure all your requirements are included in the
document isn't enough, either. Only a really in-depth, comprehensive RFP will make it easy
for potential vendors to draw up their proposals and save your own time in the long run.
Here are the top ten things you should include in your RFP.
1. Information About Your Company
The description of your business should help a vendor see whether their service will
fit your needs. Begin your RFP with the information about your business, including but not
- history of the company;
- brief description of the company and its position on the market;
- goals of the company, particularly those that made you search for a vendor;
problem that the new system will solve.
2. IT Standards
Knowing your current IT strategy and standards, including security requirements and
restrictions, is critical to vendors. Remember to warn the potential vendors up front
about any anticipated integration problems.
Proposal Manager Toolkit - Cost Breakdown
It's possible that the new system/software will have to integrate into the existing one
and interface with other components. This is why knowing your current IT strategy and
standards, including security requirements and restrictions, is critical to vendors.
Remember to warn the potential vendors up front about any anticipated integration
3. Reasons for Requesting a Proposal
You are supposed to explain why you have decided to request proposals from the
potential vendors. This will help them understand what you expect from the future
agreement. If you already have or plan any projects related to the one that is the subject
of the RFP, you'd better mention them, too.
4. Project Description
This is the crucial point for your RFP. Following are some tips that you might use
while describing the project:
- describe the goal of the project and the product you need;
- provide a detailed list of the
product's key features and feature enhancements, if any,
as well as the functional and non-functional requirements with appropriate examples.
you are at a loss trying to depict a certain element, you might compare it to something
you have seen in other systems / programs. And remember:
the better vendors understand your
requirements, the less additional questions you will have to answer;
- if the project requires that a GUI be created, you should describe the visual concept in
general, and the GUI in particular. Again, any examples and comparisons will be most
- if the system/software you need is similar to something that already exists, proper
links and/or descriptions could help you explain what you will require from your vendor;
- work out in detail the hardware/software configuration of the system/software to be
created, as well as the platform, programming languages, tools, etc.;
- state whether developers will be allowed to use open source software or their
proprietary software that can be customized to your needs;
- set forth a scheme of project management;
- indicate the
approximate budget of the project and give detailed requirements on how
vendors should identify the estimated cost of implementation;
- specify the conditions of deployment, integration, final testing, and support, as well
as warranty, liability, disclaimers, and waivers.
5. Time Limit
Indicating the amount of time allotted for the project and the expected deadline, keep
in mind that these factors may influence the concept that a vendor will propose. You may
also include an approximate project schedule in your RFP.
6. Proposal Description
Vendors will need your instructions for preparing proposals, including such details
as the number of copies, expiration date and time, contact person, etc. Draw up a
structure for the proposal, create a special template, and attach it to the RFP.
Business Proposal -
Work Breakdown Structure
You have to describe the format for the proposal in your RFP. Should it be just a
regular estimation letter sent as an email message, or do you want it to be formatted as a
Microsoft Word document?
Vendors will need your instructions for labeling and preparing
proposal materials, including such details as the number of copies, expiration date and
time, contact person, etc. If you have drawn up an elaborated structure for the proposal,
create a special template and attach it to the RFP.
7. Requested Information About a Vendor
You need to have adequate information about your potential vendors' expertise. Request
summaries of similar work performed for other businesses and resumes of staff involved.
It's also a good idea to find out which platform and hardware vendors employ in their
solutions. In case a vendor is going to use the service of any subcontractors and/or
secondary suppliers, request the contact information for them.
If you compile a
questionnaire that will assist vendors in revealing their expertise and experience, it
will also facilitate your own work when it comes to comparing proposals.
8. Perfect Vendor's Image
Decide what is more important to you: a vendor's qualifications, the ability to meet
the needs of the project, the highest quality of work, the reasonableness of cost and time
estimates, or maybe a combination of several factors.
Your RFP should contain the description of a vendor that best fits your requirements.
This will let vendors understand your expectations of the company you will select for your
project. Working out the image of a perfect vendor, decide what is more important to you:
a vendor's qualifications, the ability to meet the needs of the project, the highest
quality of work, the reasonableness of cost and time estimates, or maybe a combination of
9. Criteria for Proposal Evaluation
Vendors are supposed to know the criteria you are going to apply choosing the company
to work with. If the main criterion is the estimated cost of implementation or, say, the
risk level, don't keep it back.
If your RFP contains any confidential information, you might want to prepare a
non-disclosure agreement and ask your potential vendors to sign it before you send them
your RFP. Otherwise, they may attach it to the proposal.
Crafting a good RFP means doing a lot of work that requires both time and skills. If
you do it well, you won't need much time to eliminate the proposals that don't match your
requirements and select the vendor that best fits your needs. Moreover, preparing a
contract with that vendor will be nice and easy because both parties will have sufficient
information about each other and the subject of the contract.
However, I recommend that you should weigh your expertise and the amount of time you
have at your disposal before you begin working on an RFP. I knew a young CEO who didn't
have much experience, but who was wise for his age; after he considered his in-house
capacity, he just hired a consultant who did a job that was worth every cent. Next time,
the company used that RFP as a template, and it worked fine. I believe the CEO hit the
nail right on the head. You may follow his example if preparing an RFP is going to cost
you more than paying an outside specialist.
Business Proposal - Project Costs Breakdown
About the Author
Basil Tesler is at