There comes a time in every one’s life when they need to get someone else to do the work for them. In the business world, you can’t just pick someone randomly. You need to get a few comparisons so that you can make an informed decision. The best way to get comparisons, is to ask for information about previous experience in a standardized way.
The request for standardized information is called a request for proposal, or RFP. Once you’ve narrowed down your potential vendors to a handful, the RFP goes out and they send back uniform proposals that are easy to compare. For those who need to create a request for proposal, below is a sample outline that’s worked well for me.
Section 1: Table of Contents
Section 2: Project Summary
Include the lifecycle of the project and the purpose of the RFP.
Section 3: Company Description
Explain your company and its brand. You can also explain the market environment as it relates to your project.
Section 4: Proposal Guidelines and Requirements
This is where you tell the vendor how you want the proposal to be organized and presented. Some of this information will be repeated in more detail later on.
Section 5: Terms and Conditions
Explain your expectations and the requirements of the project. For web projects, who owns the web development code is a tricky aspect so I like to outline that any projects the vendor will work on are, in the end, the property of my company. Besides any really sticky points, you also mention how the proposals will be reviewed.
Section 6: Description, Purpose and Objective of the Project
Section 7: Budget
Ask for several pricing scenarios. I recommend not presenting a fast figure unless that’s what you have to work with because a vendor will always find a way to spend all of the budget you offer. Allowing them to come up with a figure allows you to see what they can produce within a set amount and decide if it’s a good match for your project. Carefully review all the phases to make sure everything is presented and the vendor can adequately match their service to the requirements of the entire project.
Section 8: Audience and Stakeholders
Tell the vendor who they’re making the project for and who are the VIPs that will be responsible for approvals.
Section 9: Personnel Resources
Introduce your team to the vendor. Ask the vendor who will be working with you. Make sure they propose enough personnel to adequately complete the project. Too many and it eats up the budget, too few and the project doesn’t get completed on time, or worse, comes out crappy.
Section 10: Scope and Guidelines
For any project, a scope document is required, Share a simplified version with the vendor. The more educated you can make your vendor, the better they’ll be able to present a viable option and the easier it will be for you to compare and make a well-informed decision.
Section 11: Available Technology Resources and Integration Issues
Especially with technology projects, you really need to outline what the requirements for the technology will be. Websites do not float around in bubbles. They need servers and databases and people who manage both. Part of the project is making sure the vendor can handle any snafu that should arise. Another component of any technology project is making sure the new project is going to integrate with existing framework. Explain the environment to the vendor so they can evaluate if they can provide adequate services.
Section 12: Proposed Timeline
Outline the timeline of the project from when the RPFs are due, to their approval and project discovery, design, development, beta review, deployment, pre- and post-testing. Make sure there is adequate time for each phase. Nothing ruins a web project faster than an underestimated timeframe.
Section 13: Qualifications
Ask the vendor for additional information that you’d like to know including their relevant experience, case studies, references (check, check and check again!!), background of the company, their expectations, a communication plan, any partnerships that might affect your project, and anything else that might seem relevant.
Section 14: Evaluation Criteria
Outline how you will be judging their proposals. Typical criteria includes:
- Suitability of the Proposal
- Aesthetic Capabilities
- Candidate Experience
- Value/Pricing Structure and Price Levels
- Depth and Breadth of Staff
- Proposal Presentation
- Demonstrated Commitment to Service
Section 15: Format for Proposals
Include information about how the proposal should look, including length and font size, as well as the order of the sections such as the title page, cover letter, proposal, project management, qualifications and budget and fees.
It seems like a lot but requesting the right information in your RFP will enable you to organize your choices better and it also demonstrates how a vendor approaches a project. If a vendor can’t produce an RFP to your specifications, chances are they won’t be able to meet your requirements for the project.