How to Write an RFP Optimized to Your Needs and Use It Effectively

A Request for Proposal (RFP) should be viewed as much more than just a set of questions sent out to vendors in an effort to obtain product feature information and a quote.

A properly organized RFP can be used as a system planning tool to accurately identify entity-wide and departmental priorities and implementation sequence. Even more importantly, an RFP can also as an Implementation Management guide to ensure the system you are paying for is actually capable of doing what you contracted for.

This guide shows how an Request for Proposal (RFP) is optimized for software selection and implementation. An optimized RFP utilizes special techniques to make it useful not just for initial procurement, but throughout ALL phases of the software evaluation, selection, and implementation process.

This detailed guide provides straightforward, helpful information and real-world examples about how to:

The Table of Contents for the Optimized RFP Guide is shown below, with the major topics & benefits of each chapter summarized in red:

TABLE of CONTENTS

I.        Why use an RFP?
                The "bridge" to many benefits...
                Earned Value Management...
                Cost Management...
                Contract Management...
                Examples...

II.       Pre-RFP Preparation Needed
                Identifying the Project Domain...
                Procedural Interfaces...
                Data Interfaces...
                Business Process Reengineering...
                Organizational Issues...
                Obtain Project Domain Checklists...
                Examples...

III.      Determining the Correct RFP Organization
                Learn why organization is so important...
                Obtain Business Workflow Checklists...
                Matching Organizational Priorities...
                Examples...

IV.      Use the Best RFP Question & Statement Formal
                the Key to successful software implementation ...
                RFP Optimization Guidelines ...
                Feature Support Matrix...
                Multiple Answer Matrix...
                Addressing Legal Issues...
                Examples...

V.       Requirements Definition Made Easy
                Common Sense Rules...
                The Three Most Important Rules...
                Obtain Detailed, Ready-to-Use RFP templates...
                Examples...

VI.      Reduce Procurement Time using High-Technology
                The advantages of electronic RFPs...
                Using an Electronic RFP...
                More Accurate Product Evaluation...
                Examples...

VII.     Vendor Response Evaluation Techniques
                Quantitative analysis...
                Time-saving Tips...
                Weighted Grade Point scoring...
                Key Financial Ratios...
                Examples...

VIII.    The RFP as a System Implementation Management Tool
                Earned Value Management explained...
                Metrics Identified...
                Enhance Project Management...
                Obtain EV Metrics identification tool...
                Examples...

      This guide discusses not just how to EVALUATE vendor RFP responses using quantitative techniques, but also HOW to use the data collected by each as a PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOL during the software's implementation.

       The complete Optimized RFP Guide is included with ALL Ready-to-Use RFP templates, and is also available SEPARATELY for only $49.00. Order the Optimized RFP Guide separately here:               (Secure Checkout) Electronic RFP techniques for software selection

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Software Selection

Request for Proposal Techniques

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Effective RFP Techniques

A software Request for Proposal (RFP) can be used to obtain many significant benefits in addition to simply comparing one vendor response to another. An RFP can be used to determine the:

  • RISK inherent in a proposed system
  • SUITABILITY of software to your needs
  • FINANCIAL Impact of a proposed system
  • TCO - the software's Total Cost of Ownership

yet many organizations are limited to using an RFP just for collecting and comparing vendor responses, and many find even that task to be very time-consuming and incomplete. The reason for this is most software RFPs do not use a question and vendor response (answer) format correctly suited to the product being acquired.

To be most effective during the software selection process, an RFP must be much more than just a collection of Yes/No questions or free form essay responses. Why? Because Yes/No is too limited, especially for software applications, and the free-form essay response format allowing vendors to respond with anything imaginable does not provide the response consistency needed for truly "apples-to-apples" software comparisons.
An RFP using the Yes/No response format requires a question for each specific software feature needed to accomplish a specific function, and this forces your RFP to be extremely long, with many questions. This makes comparing and evaluating responses to this type of RFP very difficult and error prone. It is also very difficult to easily and accurately analyze vendor responses to an RFP created with open-ended, essay-type questions, primarily because of the inconsistencies found in all the vendor responses.
So just what are the right formats for a software RFP? Two of the most useful formats are the Feature Support Matrix and the Multiple Answer Matrix for collecting both Risk Assessment and Functional data regarding large, enterprise-wide software projects. The Feature Support Matrix is discussed below, with application-specific questions in the example pages.

THE CORRECT RFP FORMATS

There are several software RFP question/response formats that can be used to maximize the usefulness and consistency of all vendor responses. This is important when one considers the fact that a specific software feature can be provided (delivered) using many methods. These can range from being part of the standard product "out-of-the-box", or provided as a "No Charge" software modification (enhancement), or provided on a Paid-for software modification.
Technically, a software vendor can provide anything desired through custom programming, and this quickly becomes a problem because the issues of practicality and feasibility are obscured by all the Yes answers. Just because a vendor states they are providing a feature as a no-charge modification does not mean they can deliver it on time or bug-free. The issue of RISK becomes very real.
We recommend the following RFP techniques and question/response formats to obtain information in a consistent manner that cam also be used to assess both the SUITABILITY and the RISK inherent in a given software proposal.

RFP QUESTION FORMAT EXAMPLES

Use the following formats to create a truly useful RFP that will efficiently collect information that accurately portrays BOTH a proposed software system's functionality AND it's RISK of implementation. Each example is first briefly explained, followed by an example highlighted in green.

# 1 - Feature Support Matrix

This RFP question format is a very good way of identifying BOTH system feature AVAILABILITY, and the DELIVERY METHOD a vendor must utilize to provide that feature, in a completely quantitative format. This is ideal for collecting data used to determine the suitability (weighted grade point score) of a proposed software system to your needs, AND data needed to assess the RISK of it's implementation.
This type of RFx format is an excellent choice for RFIs & RFPs used to acquire enterprise-wide systems such as ERP, ERM, CRM software. The risk assessment is very important here because of the complex nature of the target environment and the amount of custom scripting or programming that is involved.
To use this format, you should first put the following instructions (highlighted in green) at the beginning of your RFP's System Requirements section (or similar).

(Additional information about using the Feature Support Matrix is available in the full Optimized RFP Guide. Please see the Optimized RFP Guide Details Form to order.)

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"The detailed requirements we found in the RFP template for process manufacturing ERP, as well as Infotivity's effective help, enabled the successful outcome of our ERP software selection project."
      - Diane H., Natural Cosmetics Mfr.


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