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Write an effective RFP

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What experience do you have with writing requests for proposal (RFPs)? What suggestions do you have for writing an effective RFP? Share your comments about writing an effective RFP, as discussed in the March 9 Government IT e-newsletter.

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It's not easy. They take advantage of you.

by DC_GUY In reply to Write an effective RFP

I wrote and administered many RFPs for a sub-federal level governmental unit. In my experience the single greatest cause of dissatisfaction with the result of the contract was the contractor's selection of staff to send us. They'd send us their trainees, their problem employees, even warm bodies they picked up just to get the contract.

They knew we weren't in a good position to complain about individuals, what with all the constraints we had on our own HR policies. We eventually developed a saying: "There are lots of great people out there in the private sector. And those are not the ones who get assigned to government contracts."

We never completely solved this problem but we made progress on it. The contractor had to provide the names, resumes, and references of the specific people they intended to send us, in the proposal. That wasn't as difficult to handle as it sounds. For one RFP we got seven proposals, all listing the same three individuals. Everybody figured that whoever got the work would be able to hire them!

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...and don't make it an endurance test

by rlauver In reply to Write an effective RFP

I've been on both sides of the RFP-Proposal continuum -- writing both in the public and private sectors. If you want good quality responses, keep the requirements down to what you really need and avoid asking for an extra ton of paper before award. We just finished one that required 22 copies of the subcontractor's cost proposal -- there aren't 22 people in the agency who will read it let alone understand it. And does anyone really need 5 years of financials -- 5 copies each? There's time for that after the field is narrowed. Save yourself and everyone else involoved some effort and it will help keep the procurment on schedule.

And one more thing, if you have a pre-proposal conference, be prepared to answer some questions. Many a meeting is spent introducing the procurement team (right down to the person who made the copes) and reviewing the RFP (which the bidders can read for themselves) -- don't waste their time.

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Thanks, for a new perspective

by YourAverageManager In reply to Write an effective RFP

In the employment search I have contacted four local consulting groups, two are expanding their efforts with state government. Each group is aware of my efforts. My objective at this point is to obtain an engagement in the public or private sector, as a consultant. I can see how individual companies acting independently could present the same consultant.

In response to great people not being assigned to government contracts, based on feelings or facts, similar complaints are made in the private sector concerning individual consultants. Noted similar comments concerning employees within the same project teams. I contracted with consultants that filled a need because those resources were not present within the organization. Once invited in, they are managed. Two other perceptions are relevant at this point. The first is that the consultant is only as good as the internal contact. And, the second perspective being that from a higher level view, leadership can only see one team. It didn?t matter if I pointed left or right, the responsibility and authority resided with me.

In the employment search I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss government ?IT? with several managers and directors. Frankly, I was impressed with their integrity and candor. In some cases their efforts directly affected people?s lives, and that is a responsibility and pressure that deserves respect from the public. It?s just an observation, not necessarily attempting to win your hearts here, we all want to feel good about what we do.

A Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a project manager was sent out to four consulting groups. Only two responded. The group I went through decided not to respond, but having learned of this I requested the opportunity to create a proposal during my first interview with that consulting group. I had 24 hours to create a winning proposal. It came down to two consulting candidates from the same group, and I wasn?t the one. This is not a negative. I enjoyed the challenge and the interview, attempting to get some feedback to build upon. The key point here is that I responded as if I were the IT management and it was my problem to solve, what would I want to see in the proposal. The RFQ was key, and starting with the understanding that many perceived risks are not going to be documented in the RFQ helped. They found the proposal interesting or entertaining enough to schedule the interview. The barriers for me are moving experience from a privately held corporate employee to consulting, government just happens to be a potential client.

My biased opinion; since they selected the other candidate over me, they must have found a highly qualified and capable person. Only time will tell if everything else aligns for their success. RFX?s are important, but they can never provide the whole story, public or private we just can not expose ourselves that way. One last thing, I didn?t lie about anything, my integrity is much too valuable in this smaller than expected local IT world.

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RFP review by Lawyer or Subject Matter Expert

by Go4Gold In reply to Write an effective RFP

After you have completed a draft RFP, it would be a good idea to have it reviewed by your legal counsel. Try to use legal counsel who has a background/experience in the subject matter. For example, for RFPs dealing with capital projects, I always have the RFP and subsequent contracts reviewed by a lawyer who not only has the legal experience but also engineering/construction background. In this way... the lawyer understands your needs and can give you insight and feedback on the technical content, as well! It will save you a whole lot of trouble later.

In addition, it may be useful to have your RFP reviewed by a subject matter expert, i.e., to ensure that your specifications are adequately and reasonably covered.

Food for thought!

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RFP is only an initiation

by MichaelTsen In reply to Write an effective RFP

Its important to remember that RFP is only an initiation - to qualify for an outsource solution. It is not exactly a requirment document. At times, I purposely keep the ambiguity on some requirements and make a wish list instead. Some are on technical aspects while the others are domain knowledge. The first filter depends on how the bidder respond. If a bidder ignore the ambiguity and give you a 'good' deal and 'assure' you they can do it, you should smell something fishy. If some high profile bidder ignores your low quality RFP, chances is that they won't be able to give you dedicated attention later anyway. If some get back to you politely pointing out what your RFP is missing, and those matches what you left out. Walla, you got a match. But still, since you are not a perfect man, it only shows they are as good as you are. A better match is when you find someone slightly better and can 'train' you in some intangible way.


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Use your RFPs to solve your business challenges

by lmf1701 In reply to Write an effective RFP

Keep your RFP high level. Unless absolutely necessary, a good RFP should be technology (or at least implementation) inspecific. Tell the vendors what the business challenge is that you are trying to solve and let them come back with the way(s) to accomplish the goal. Many people fall into the trap of telling the vendors the solution that they have derived to solve the business challenge they are trying to tackle. This does not take advantage of the fact that vendors may have 1) a greater diversity of technical knowledge than you do and 2) experience gained through others with similar challenges.

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Some things to remember

by jmiller In reply to Write an effective RFP

I have been involved in writing a few RFPs, and have learnt a few things that I share here:

(a) Never take on a proposal without having the technical experts in your team. For example, if you are bidding on a Oracle migration project, make sure you have experts working with you, right from the RFP stage.

(b) Meet with the RFP administrators. Speak with the RFP administrators. Follow the Q&A posted to the RFP administrators. After RFP documents, your biggest source of information is your RFP administrator.

(c) Understand the terms specified in the RFP. If there are unclear terms, ask for clarification early.

(d) Explain the reasons why you or your company should be selected for the work. This might seem obvious, but so many proposals are submitted using boilerplate information that has no connection to the RFP in question.

(e) Never ever underbid. In this age of tough business environment, it might be tempting to bid low. That's almost always a mistake. Remember that you need to deliver the goods, and not just win the contract.

(f) Understand the acceptability criteria.

(g) Anticipate delays.

That's all for now.

Jim Miller

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