Writing an Effective RFP

Writing an RFP can be a daunting task, especially if the project is something in which you have little expertise. If this is the case for you, try to collaborate with a content expert. As a web designer/developer I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve been a consultant assisting with the writing process as well as a respondent. Having been on both sides, I’ve a unique view on what it takes to generate a well-written RFP.

There is a line between adding too much information and not enough. Your goal as the author is to give enough juice that your respondents can give you a valid reply, but not too much to limit the creativity of the respondents. They can bring to the table a great wealth of information and talent. They will become your team for the duration of the project and your goal is to find the best available.

Your RFP will set the tone and structure for the project. If it is organized properly, it becomes the guide for the process. You’ll want to include background of the company, a summary and goals for the project. It’s a good idea is to put in your expected timeline of the RFP process. One of the general goals of good project management is to keep it on schedule. What better way is there, than to start it off with one?

Dates in your RFP process timeline might be a pre-proposal Q&A session, the proposal due date, potential bid winner interviews, contract award, kick-off, expected project completion.

Most projects are subject to the triangular foundation of time, quality and price. The project descriptions you provide will relay the quality you’re seeking. Quality and price is in the ballpark of the respondent. These are the variables you’re attempting to gain control of with your RFP. I read somewhere that one can get a sense of the whole project’s temperament by the bid/contract award process. If the process becomes thorny, the project itself is doomed to go that route. Obviously the opposite is true as well. So far, this has been consistent with my own observations

Whether I am writing an RFP or responding, my goal is to break the items down into self-contained modules, or deliverables. I’ll extract these and put them on a time line and monetize it. As an example, let’s say I want a calendar in my application. As the writer of the RFP, I’ll define all the elements that I want in the calendar. These can be; general description of the calendar, event description, date, time, toggle on repeat daily/weekly/monthly, alarm etc.

Putting in this type of detail will allow the respondent enough information to determine the who, what, how and how long, and the quote intelligently.

Along with the actual project details, you will want to outline the contractor’s responsibilities. What do you expect of them? Do you want them to only use employees? Or is it okay for them to hire contractors? Do you want to know who the contractors are? Do you want veto power over their selection? Do you want a firm company representative? You’ll also want to ensure that you put in selection criteria.

Most of all, you need to realize that you are building a partnership. This is team building at the very least. Try to keep it all in the positive vein.