4 Essential Elements of an Effective RFP

A new technology project starts with a request for proposal, or RFP. A successful RFP begins with being clear and detailed, explaining thoroughly what your next tech project entails. Your RFP should have precise specifications, imperative items, and aspects that would be nice but aren’t required and clearly delineate your overall expectations. Here are four essential elements of an effective RFP.

1. Summary and Business Overview
A successful RFP starts with a good intro or summary. It will introduce the vendor to get comfortable with who you are and what the project is all about. After the introduction, you should go into the background and an overview of your business. Engage the potential vendor with what drives you and what your core values are, as well as what services you provide.

2. Project Goals, Scope, and Timeline
This section is arguably the most important and lets your prospective vendor know what you’re trying to accomplish and your target audience. Here’s where you want to include any possible hurdles or potential issues you’re trying to avoid or solve. Rather than offer potential solutions, be as descriptive as possible on what the project is attempting to solve. You’re going to the experts, so let them worry about the how. If there are any specific evaluation metrics, include them here.
Your explanation of scope should be very detailed and thorough, therefore the most extended section of your RFP. Any project is going to have many variables that can delay your project. The more detail you put into what you expect to be delivered, the better they can estimate costs and have a clearer picture once you get started versus a lot of communication along the way due to confusion or ambiguity. Be sure to have a clearly defined timeline on when you expect the project’s completion, including deadlines and any concurrent product releases.

3. Budget
Make your budgetary expectations obvious right from the start. You may not know exactly what’s entailed, so a general budget or range would be reasonable here. Let them know a target budget and a maximum budget that you won’t exceed. Estimated figures are far better than none at all.

4. Information for the Vendor
Now that you have established the details of your project and given a good background and overview, you should let the vendors know what to expect from you. This would start with a detailed explanation of your selection process. Let them know precisely how you’ll select the vendor for the project. Next, give them the format for how you want them to submit their response. Be very specific on how you would like this laid out.
The purpose is two-fold. First, if they’re all organized in the same fashion, it makes comparing among them more straightforward. Second, you can find out who reads your proposal and follows the directions. You may be able to eliminate some candidates simply from them not following the instructions. Finish this section off with deadlines for submission of proposals and also a timeline for when you plan to give your answer and select your next vendor.
An effective RFP gets everyone off on the right foot, setting the stage for a successful working relationship.

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