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Best Practices for Writing a Successful RFP

Government procurement processes have a reputation as burdensome and bureaucratic. But practices such as issuing requests for proposals (RFP) before proceeding with projects serve several purposes. The RFP process helps governments make more informed purchasing decisions, increases transparency, and widens the potential vendor pool. To help make the process less painful and more productive, consider the following best practices for your local government agency that will lead to RFPs that result in better solutions and fair competition.

RFI vs. RFP vs. RFQ

Government agencies are no stranger to the use of acronyms and abbreviations. But you might not be as familiar with these abbreviations and their distinctions:

  • RFI: A request for information from prospective vendors usually precedes an RFP or RFQ. The RFI is less formal, exploratory, and intends to collect information about the vendors, their capabilities, and possible approaches to your issue at hand.
  • RFP: A request for proposals seeks solutions to a specific problem. This solicits a variety of ideas from multiple vendors through a formalized process.
  • RFQ: Use a request for quote when you know exactly what products or services you want, but you need to know how much it will cost. This typically is the final step before vendor selection.

What to Include in Your RFP

To improve the quality of proposals submitted in response to your RFP, incorporate the following best practices and include the following elements:

  • Well-defined business problem: Clearly and concisely state the problem you need to solve. Define the problem by the desired outcomes, not the methods used to accomplish the results. Be sure your problem statement contains only the problem you’re seeking to solve and does not dictate the solution itself. To get the best possible RFP and most innovative proposed solutions, do not include elements that limit vendors’ creative input. Also, limit the focus of your RFP to one problem. Issue multiple RFPs if necessary.
  • Organization overview: Include details about your agency, its purpose, how it is structured, etc. Give respondents a sense of your organization and how you work. Also identify who your constituents are (in general) and your specific target audience for the project.
  • Project requirements: Discuss in as much detail as possible what expectations you have for the project and what the project must include. The requirements should be unambiguous, meaningful, and measurable. Note if specific technical standards or compliance regulations must be met.
  • Response requirements: Clearly state what successful proposals must include and how they must be formatted. This allows you to more easily compare proposals from different vendors, aids in your review process, and allows you to see how well respondents follow instructions. Ask for references from other clients and their portfolio or samples of their work. Also request information about the team members who would be working on your project.
  • Selection criteria: Be clear about how you will evaluate the proposals and choose the vendor.
  • Timelines: Establish clear, but reasonable deadlines for submission and review. Also identify your desired project implementation timeline.
  • Budget: Note the overall project budget. Also make sure to note any funding restrictions or considerations, such as fiscal year requirements or payment specifications.
  • Question and answer opportunities: Try to anticipate vendor questions in advance and include the answers within your RFP. If vendors still have questions, provide an opportunity to answer their questions so you will receive more responsive and complete responses. Either host a group question session or provide an online means of submitting questions and posting your answers.

Taking the time to draft a complete, clear RFP for your local government agency will encourage the most vendors to respond with more creative solutions. A well-written RFP will also aid in your review of the proposals and lead to the selection of the best vendor for your project needs.

At FivePoint Payments, we often help our customers with their RFPs. We would be happy to help you write and submit an RFP for your local government agency. Contact us for more information.

Photo credit: Ecity Interactive

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