Today’s post is from Ronald D. Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.
I’d like to thank my SafeSourcing associates both past and present for their constant quality input to my posts and whitepapers and upcoming book.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document used in sealed or electronic bid procurement procedures through which a purchaser advises the potential suppliers of (1) statement and scope of work, (2) specifications, (3) schedules or timelines, (4) contract type, (5) data requirements, (6) terms and conditions, (7) description of goods and/or services to be procured, and (8) instructions for preparation of technical, management, and/or cost proposals. As an example, Government RFPs are publicly advertised and suppliers respond with a detailed proposal, not with only a price quotation. They provide clearly quoted specifications for negotiations after sealed proposals are opened, and the award of contract may not necessarily go to the lowest bidder.2
Breaking down each of these 8 pieces of information will help to form an understanding as to whether there is enough detail to move straight to an RFP, thus skipping the Request For Information altogether.
Scope of Work: This refers to all of the elements that should be included in the proposal for the project and is generally specific to each customer along with the data and metrics provided to shape it. Simply, this is the definition of the needs and expectations for the work needing to be completed.
Specifications: “An exact statement of the particular needs to be satisfied, or essential characteristics that a customer requires (in a good, material, method, process, service, system, or work) and which a vendor must deliver. Specifications are written usually in a manner that enables both parties (and/or an independent certifier) to measure the degree of conformance. They are, however, not the same as control limits (which allow fluctuations within a range), and conformance to them does not necessarily mean quality (which is a predictable degree of dependability and uniformity).”3
Generally specifications will be broken into either performance or technical specifications that define the types of goods or services needed from the vendor community. Developing strong specifications ensures proposals containing exactly what is needed. As a result vendors will know not to over bid or under bid.
Schedules or Timelines: This is the time frame of the expectation of when the RFP is sent to the vendors, when questions (about the specifications or the RFP process) are due from the vendors, when the vendors can expect the questions with answers to be returned, and when the RFP is due to be completed.
Contract Type: This defines to the vendor if the contract is a spot buy, a one year, two year, or longer contract. There may also be additional special contractual requirements added within this area.
Data Requirements: This can vary from RFP to RFP, but every project should collect basic information about the vendors such as, their name, address, primary business, who the primary contact will be with their specific contact and other related information, usually a list of 3-5 references and a list of current businesses that are similar in size to the company running the RFP.
Terms and Conditions: General and special arrangements, provisions, requirements, rules, specifications, and standards that form an integral part of an agreement or contract.
Description of Goods and/or Services to Be Procured: This description defines what is being requested. It is a bridge between the scope of work and the specifications. This area is typically where vendors are asked to give their proposal of price based on the needs defined and within the guidelines of the specifications.
Instructions for preparation of technical, management, and/or cost proposals: These are the details on how to complete the RFP. Typically the supplier will be given a deadline to complete the RFP, to complete training on how to enter Responses and Pricing, and the additional information the customer may need as supplemental documentation and how to submit that information.
In the example I used in the RFI section, (Owning a new or used facility and turning it into a distribution center) It may be known where the racking should be located, how much racking is required (this would include a set materials listing), the details of labor to install new materials and remove and re-rack another area. All of these details are required for the suppliers to bid the job appropriately. Within a very detailed RFP there are fewer chances for over or under bidding from the suppliers. The quality of an RFP is very important to successful project management because it clearly delineates the deliverables that will be required.
The details received from an RFI can be used to build the specifications for an RFP. Multiple suppliers have verified and provided details needed to complete the project. The RFI may also produce details not previously known, for instance in the racking project: if the location is in California or other geographic areas prone to seismic activity a seismic analysis will also be required to complete the work. This can be completed, but for an additional charge from the supplier. Suppliers may all have similar products, but they may not be compatible to other supplier’s materials. In other words, their product will be proprietary and not interchangeable if a repair is required in the future. These details and more need to be inserted into the new RFP.
So how can an RFI be combined with an RFP? If there needs to be a high level of knowledge about a product, project, or service, but the same supplier has been used exclusively for a long period of time and it is unclear as to whom additional sources of supply might be. An RFI could be combined by asking the questions specifically related to the new potential suppliers; who are they, where are they located, what is their business structure, who the contacts are, what areas or locations can they service, what are their references, etc. Along with the specifications and details of the RFP, an overall picture will develop of who the company is, what they can or cannot provide, and what their pricing structure will be.
With an idea of how to collect information on a project with little initial data through an RFI and details on collecting RFP responses with the known information, the next step is ensure understanding relative to the best value, data and price from the suppliers that can handle the opportunity.
For more information on how SafeSourcing can help you through the complex minefield of eRFX strategies, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.
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