In my years in IT, I’ve discovered a set number of issues that tend to pop up when it comes to writing an RFP (Request for Proposal) across many industries.
The RFP (Request for Proposal) is in its’ essence a guide to various parties whom you might invite to provide you with a new service or system for your business. Here are the things i have picked up to consider before getting started.
1. Turning future goals into a ranked wish list
Think about what you’re trying to achieve in the coming years and how the parties who are in the RFP will need to help you with that. Be blunt and brainstorm it. Then work with the outcomes of this brainstorm and brainstorm it again, together with the other key people who have a vested interest in this project.
This will deliver a first-hand list of what (you think) you’re looking to achieve. Try putting some timeframes to it and generate the ideal composition to your solution. Turn this into a wish list. Once you’ve done this, get your key people together again and rank the wish list. You’re looking to put things down as:
• Essential (deal-breakers)
• Key Features (things that the solution must do)
• Desirables (nice to have but could live without)
• Other features (things that the solution might be able to do but are not critical to function)
Good, now you have all that and assuming you did well, you have got past the first hurdle, but there are other ones ahead.
2. The TLA of Internal Procedures
Internal procedures can be a hurdle. I worked for a company once who wanted to ensure their CTB was fed into the JDA and then processed at EOD by the ASP. I’m willing to bet that even if you worked there you’d only understand two of those, unless you worked in ITS (Information Technology Services).
Every business implements things differently and often refer to these things by different TLAs (Three Letter Acronym). So define these internal procedures and explain them in full in your RFP (or leave them out). Otherwise you will be answering more questions than you put in your RFP or even worse they aren’t answering questions you thought you asked.
So ensure you’ve explained yourself. It’s ready to go now, right? Wrong!
3. Hurdling and other Pitfalls
Other things to avoid include unrealistic timescales. You might think that your proposal to integrate with an ESP for email marketing is going to be as easy as switching on the email marketing software and watching it go, but be aware that there may be some issues with that idea.
You may need your website developers, designers and deliverability manager involved, which means you have to take into account their availability. In any situation like this, it’s always useful to build in a little slack, just to allow for those unforeseen elements.
After reviewing all of this, and amending the RFP accordingly, I’d say you’re good to go and request interested parties to tender.
4. Dodging the Bullets
It is important to make sure that the RFP is sent to the correct business or contractors. Many times I have seen this task taken on by someone who has not been involved in the project, and is therefore not aware of whom the project should be outsourced to.
I have met an Architect who was sent a contract to remove graffiti, a Helicopter Training school who received a contract to translate Russian for the Immigration Service at an Airport and my personal favourite; the Rail Company that was sent its own RFP for clearing trees from alongside the tracks.
5. Check the initial response for value
Once you have sent your RFP to the correct people, you can sit back and watch the responses roll in. But don’t rest on your laurels. This may be glaringly obvious, but have you checked that what has been returned to you actually makes sense? Does it answer the questions and concerns you had, does it add insight?
If they don’t, ask yourself why you are even thinking of evaluating this email service provider.
I hope that this blog has given you a few valuable RFP tips to use when selecting your next email service provider or marketing vendor. Here are the key takeaway points:
• Ensure your RFP is readable and not packed with jargon (unless appropriate)
• Make sure your RFP actually targets what it is supposed to
• Account for possible issues with timing
• Target your intended audience
• Read the responses, carefully!