Project managers have an enormous amount of responsibility, including sourcing the right vendors and partners to help them bring a project from theory to completion.
In many cases, elements of how to achieve certain requirements will be a mystery to even the most experienced project manager, which is why the Request for Proposal (RFP) process is crucial. An RFP can help with getting the right people on board who can design and deliver the solutions needed.
You can find all the essential information for writing a Request for Proposal and the process itself below. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call one of our friendly team who’ll be only too happy to assist you.
What is a Request for Proposal?
Once a project is agreed upon, you, as a project manager, may need to onboard third-party contractors, partners, or vendors to supply skills and goods that you cannot provide in-house.
For example, if the project involves the implementation of a new CRM system across a multi-site/jurisdiction organisation, you may require a specialist IT firm to manage the installation and roll-out. A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document that provides an overview of a project and sets out what is required to achieve the KPIs.
When are RFPs issued?
An RFP is designed to guide bidders so they know what will be required of them if they’re successful in their bid and the contractual terms under which the work must be undertaken. RFPs are typically issued for large, complex projects with significant budgets, particularly in the public sector.
Government agencies often use RFPs to solicit private bids, fostering price competition among bidders and ensuring optimal results for the budget. To facilitate this process, organisations like the National Association of Counties (NACo) provide instructions for creating RFPs.
However, RFPs are not limited to the public sector. Private companies can also use them to solicit bids and contractors, who may enlist subcontractors themselves. Besides inviting bids, RFPs offer several other benefits. They provide critical details about the project, including regulatory requirements, project milestones, and deadlines. The more detailed an RFP is, the better it can filter out unqualified bidders who cannot meet the project's scope.
What to include in a Request for Proposal?
When creating an RFP, it’s important to liaise with your procurement team if you have one. It’s also crucial to check that the process aligns with your organisation’s values and is free from any express or implied discrimination.
The basic process to write an RFP is as follows:
- Create an outline of the requirements and agree on the factors by which the success of the project will be judged: this will involve speaking to managers of the soliciting company and the project team leads.
- Identify key stakeholders and from this form a representative group that can act as a soundboard for the person selected to oversee the RFP process: this will ensure the vague aspirations that led to the launch of the project morph into measurable and achievable objectives that allow it to become a reality.
- Draft the RFP: you can use an online RFP template or create the document yourself.
- Publish the RFP: you may wish to employ a consultant to help you reach the right audience.
- Review the responses and undertake due diligence checks on the top contractors, partners, and suppliers: any unfamiliar methods proposed to achieve the tasks required will need to be evaluated for feasibility.
- Select the partner, supplier, or contractor you believe is the best fit and start negotiating the commercial contract.
How long does an RFP process take?
The duration of the RFP process varies based on several factors, including the project's size, budget, and objectives. Generally, the RFP procedure can take anywhere from nine months to three years to complete.
What is the difference between a Request for Proposal and a tender?
A Request for Tender (RFT) provides potential suppliers with an opportunity to bid for a contract to supply products or services. The details of the requirements are normally fully formed and the tender process is therefore more rigid than that of an RFP.
In the case of an RFP, you, as the project manager, may not necessarily know how to solve the problem you are requesting the proposal for, meaning you have to evaluate the solutions presented and decide which one will best achieve the project’s aims within approved timescales and budgets.
What are RFP requirements?
A Request for Proposal is typically structured as follows:
- The business’s background
- Detail and scope of the project
- The project requirements and objectives
- The problem/s that needs to be solved
- The project budget
- Deadlines and KPIs
- A space for further information or questions
- Deadline for submission and contact details
Remember, issuing an RFP is an invitation for the contractor, partner, or potential vendor to propose a solution, therefore, it’s often in your best interests to provide plenty of scope for them to present ideas and different ways of achieving the requirements set out in the RFP.
Just be sure to conduct proper due diligence to establish that the chosen vendor or supplier has successfully applied their solution in the past when working on similar projects.
What type of organisations use RFPs?
RFPs are most commonly used to procure contractors for complex, service-based projects. While smaller projects with a single contractor and deliverable may not require an RFP, professional services that involve multiple skills, equipment, and labour require more extensive planning and pricing, making RFPs a useful tool.
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An RFP can provide you with the information you need to find a supplier, manufacturer, or partner to ensure a project’s objectives are met on time and within budget.
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