How and When to Write an RFP
Padgitt says there are three benefits to using an RFP.
• It gets everybody at the company who will use a product or system to contribute requirements for it.
• Due to the level of detail contained in the RFP, vendors will understand exactly what a client company needs.
• Vendor responses to RFPs allow complex systems to be compared against one another in an apples-to- apples environment.
Writing and Evaluating the RFP
The RFP process is lengthy, because it’s difficult to get everyone to agree on what’s necessary vs. what they want.
“It should reflect the requirements and needs of the company, with an element of wish,” advises Padgitt.
After the RFP is written, it’s sent to four to 10 vendors. The complexity of your system needs and the amount of money you can spend determine to which vendors you send your RFP. It takes about six months to have the RFPs returned from vendors and evaluated by your company.
Padgitt recommends a scoring system to ease the turbulent waters of vendor selection. Managers often become attached to a vendor that offers a particular bell or whistle they desire.
A scoring system, while still difficult to negotiate, assigns a weight to each of the attributes listed as requirements in the original RFP. Required attributes are weighed based on their impact on functionality and are ranked higher than extras.
RFP in Action
An important key to the RFP process is scheduling implementation of new technology or services for a slow period in your catalog business. This allows you time to work out kinks in a new technology, test the vendor’s reliability for delivery or have a project completed and tested before your crunch season arrives. It’s recommended that you provide at least a four-month window, preferably six, to fully begin using a new service or product.