- What is RFP in Technology?
- What is the Purpose of RFP Software?
- Why Deploy Business Software to Automate Your RFP Process?
- Your Technology Service Provider = Information Technology Needs Met + Problems Solved
Finding a suitable, trusted supplier to help you implement new IT solutions for your business can be a lengthy and intimidating task.
A well-written template for RFP (Request for Proposal) eases the typical administrative headaches that come with wrangling multiple stakeholders, unknown suppliers and complex information, so that everyone benefits.
The future of successful RFPs lies in using RFP technology. Software automation helps you streamline the process, so you can write more effective Request for Proposal documents and make strategic sourcing decisions quicker.
In this guide, we’ll share 11 vital tips for writing an effective RFP and consider the benefits of automating the full process using software.
IT software development and infrastructure projects often have long implementation timelines and a hefty price tag.
It’s important for you to find a vendor you can trust and build a long-term working relationship with. One that understands your end user needs and is able to deliver a high-performing solution that brings optimum return on investment.
As part of the proposal gathering process, there are several simple steps you can follow to ensure you communicate your procurement needs and requirements with clarity. This helps suppliers meet your expectations optimally.
But first, let’s introduce you to RFPs and tackle a few questions people have about them in the tech sphere.
What is RFP in Technology?
An RFP (aka Request for Proposal) forms a key part of the eSourcing process. It is a formal, time-intensive and strategic step.
RFPs are a means to identify the challenge you’re facing, as well as convey your company’s background information, digital requirements, and expectations to potential vendors.
Issuing a Request for Proposal usually indicates that a company is at the stage where they are ready to buy.
- What business issue are you seeking to address?
- What system do you need to implement?
- What technical capabilities are you looking for?
It’s in your interests to aim for clarity and specificity when creating your Request for Proposal, as it helps you to assess suitability more easily.
This briefing information helps potential vendors to suggest their best-fitting solutions. But it also enables you to identify and assess suppliers based on their technical capability, implementation timelines, level of data security, industry expertise and reputation.
What is the Purpose of RFP Software?
Essentially, software helps you leverage RFP technology to manage and automate your Request for Proposal process.
It supports each step of the process, from communicating with stakeholders and compiling the RFP documentation, to gathering proposal responses and communicating with potential suppliers in a more integrated, efficient way.
Using online RFP tools and templates assists you to standardize both the briefing information and the format of responses, so that you can compare ‘like’ with ‘like’ when evaluating submissions.
RFP software typically offers technology tools that support workflow management and proposal templates, as well as communication, survey, and reporting capabilities.
More agile, robust management systems, such as Deep Stream, include AI-powered templates, centralized databases and automated proposal scoring, plus much more. Examples of other software solutions include Coupa, DirectRFP, RFP360 and SAP Ariba.
Why Deploy Business Software to Automate Your RFP Process?
Foremost, digital systems speed up the sourcing process.
- Automating this process eliminates manual tasks and inefficient communication activities, which results in swifter sourcing and contract lifecycle management.
RFP automation can also save you $$.
- You usually find more suppliers to choose from and thus have a more competitive bidding process.
Improves transparency in the sourcing process.
- Storing all information and communications in an accessible, centralized place, makes it easier to audit the process, helping you adhere to compliance requirements.
It helps you manage risk through security.
- Hi-spec software solutions use top-notch cybersecurity, keeping your information and data gathering activities safe and sound.
Curious about how DeepStream can help you do all these things?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of RFPs and why automating this process is beneficial, let’s dive into how you can write more effective proposals for your information technology projects.
It helps to consider your approach through the lens of the 11 steps involved.
1. Examine Why You are Sending Out an RFP & Whether Another RFx Type is More Appropriate
What are you hoping to accomplish by issuing an RFP?
You may put out a Request for Proposal for the following reasons, but they are not always the most appropriate way to fulfill a need.
- Your organization may have protocols that require RFPs for every sourcing project.
- You may wish to encourage a better bid price from an existing supplier.
- You might need external ideas to solve a problem internally.
Is it the right tool for the job?
RFPs are time-consuming to create and for suppliers to respond to, so best used at the point when you are ready for vendors to offer solutions you are prepared to pay for.
If you’re looking for a better bid from an existing source, then a better route might be to send out an RFQ (Request for Quote).
If you are only looking for ideas at this stage, then an RFI (Request for Information) could be more helpful, and not as detailed or time-intensive as a Request for Proposal.
2. Start with an RFI First to Test the Market (Unless You Know Precisely What You Need)
RFIs (Requests for information) help us explore the market and can inform the creation of our proposal criteria.
It’s a preliminary document that follows a standardized set of qualifier questions to help you find out what info tech solutions are available and which suppliers can provide them.
From here, you can create a shortlist of qualified suppliers to approach with your proposal request.
RFI questions cover topics such as:
- Supplier capability and expertise
- Ownership and reputation
- History and prior experience
- Proprietary technology systems, designs or solutions
3. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Uncover & Emulate Successful Proposal Examples
The RFP format has a long history in sourcing and procurement practices across sectors. So you can learn from the best practices of others who have handled similar proposal request requirements in the past.
Are there needs specific to your industry or niche?
There are technology tools and templates to match your requirements irrespective of your industry.
Find a relevant template and then assess your specific criteria to customize it further.
Find out how DeepStream's proposal blank canvas tool can help you simplify your proposal writing process.
4. Communicate Your Project Needs, Goals, & Vision Clearly in Your Proposals
Define your problem or requirement and what you are hoping to accomplish through the procurement of a new tech system or infrastructure. Ensure vendors understand your needs and expectations, so they can offer appropriate solutions aligned with your goals.
You want the supplier to provide you with a comprehensive picture, both of potential outcomes and what it will be like working with them. So that you can shortlist the most suitable options.
So, consider the contents of your RFP. Do you need to request any of the following information?
- Case studies / client testimonials / references
- Customer service policies
- Data storage protocols
- Onboarding methods
- Pricing models / subscription costs
- Security policies / risk assessments
- Service level agreements
- Technical specifications / functional requirements
- Timeline requirements / proposed schedules
- Training process
5. Which of the 2 Types of RFP Best Fits Your Business?
Do you already have a design or solution in mind? Or are you reliant on vendors to show you what’s possible?
There are 2 different types of Request for Proposal formats you can use depending on your answers.
These are specific and detailed. They may be compiled in collaboration with an internal IT or design expert or an external consulting company.
In this case, the supplier’s role is to propose how they will implement the technology infrastructure or system you have already decided upon. Your proposal request may include prescriptive specifications such as itemized lists, technical specs, detailed designs, quantities, etc.
Work Results RFPs
This format comes into play when a business is not 100% sure of what they need, but they have expectations of what implementing new technology will help them achieve. The focus is on what a new system should do, and how it needs to integrate with existing systems.
If you don’t have the internal expertise or the budget to outsource the creation of a prescriptive Request for Proposal, then prospective vendors can offer these recommendations as part of a results-focused specification.
6. Consider If You Need to Coordinate with Other Departments
Who are the end users? Who will the new technology system or infrastructure affect most?
You need to consult with every stakeholder likely to be affected by this implementation as part of your preparation.
Collaborating across departments helps you to accommodate diverse needs, ensures fair representation and keeps everyone on the same page in terms of what you are trying to achieve.
7. Give Clear Evaluation Metrics/Scorecard & Stick to the Process with Potential Vendors
Clarify how you will assess supplier proposals with specific content guidelines and evaluation criteria.
Decide on your scoring guidelines and whether you will use simple or weighted scoring.
It’s important to stick with the assessment criteria you set. This accountability supports the transparency and auditability of the process.
When comparing vendors, your metrics could include variables such as their track record, ability to execute, or their experience scaling. Getting stakeholders involved helps to reduce bias in the decision-making process.
Find out how DeepStream’s scoring matrix can improve your selection process.
8. Disseminate Your Project to Quality Vendors: Resist Urge to Blast It to Everyone
Be selective in which companies you approach when issuing your RFP. Not only from a risk management perspective, but also from a relationship-building one.
IT implementations can be lengthy undertakings, so you may have to work with your chosen supplier for a long time. You want to trust that your shortlist of vendors is made up of reputable organizations that can deliver reliably.
9. Identify Your Shortlist Vendors & Perform a Second Round of Review
Now you need to evaluate the proposal responses and hone your shortlist.
You may hold a second review round to ensure impartiality and to confirm who fits your requirements best. This might include a security questionnaire or vendor risk assessment, if not already covered in the first review round.
At each review stage, ask yourself: Are you eliminating bias in your RFP process?
10. Request Demonstrations/Presentations to Better Understand Vendor Solutions
Now is the time to see exactly what your shortlisted suppliers can do for you.
Schedule RFP demos to get to know the team behind the proposal and to better understand how their suggested solutions can benefit your company and end users.
The best way to do that is to get hands on with visual presentations and physical demonstrations of the proposed tech products or services.
11. Avoid a Manual Process (Word Docs & Emails) or Subpar RFP Software
Gone are the days of having to wade through heavy printed volumes of proposal information or lengthy email threads that every department has been cc’d on.
With cutting edge software and automation, you have a more secure, sustainable and efficient way to process information.
Comprehensive software that is fast and easy to implement also improves your turnaround times.
So don’t settle for software which isn’t user friendly.
Your Technology Service Provider = Information Technology Needs Met + Problems Solved
When you write a clear and specific, well-researched RFP, you are supporting both your company and your potential supplier to benefit from the process.
The more structured your proposal and the more specific your objective, the easier it will be for your vendors to provide you with the right solution to meet your needs.
Choosing the right RFP software to help you manage this process is a strategic move which reduces friction and increases your chances of matching the right supplier quickly.
Find out how DeepStream can help you create effective IT RFPs, so you can find the perfect match.