Commercial

The Ultimate Guide to RFPs

The Ultimate Guide to RFPs

The Ultimate Guide to RFPs

The Ultimate Guide to RFPs

Spicy Mango - Ben Davison

Ben Davison

10 min read

|

1 Jul 2024

Introduction

The underlying principals of a good RFI or RFP span both the 'process' and the 'materials' that make up the publication. Tendering is a complicated and time consuming process - and if it's not structured well, with good documentation, the output may be of little to no use, rendering all of your efforts fruitless.

This guide aims to talk through some key definitions, provide a walk through of an example process, and describe how to get closer to a solid framework to give you some useful measurable outputs.

Let's start with some basics and get a handle on the terminology.


Terminology

Many terms are used interchangeably. Whilst from my perspective, some have specific meanings, to others, they can fall into one of the same thing.


ITT - Invitation to tender

Put simply, it's what it says. An ITT invites the market to respond to a set of requests or requirements from a business. This term is often used interchangeably with EOI - described below.


RFI - Request for information

This can often be a very lightweight document, think of this like a market question "tell us what you have". You're going to get some varied material back that may include product overview decks, white-papers and literature. If you include enough detail in your initial RFI request, you may get some high level pricing, but many RFI requests simply indicate something like "we're looking for a new media asset management (MAM) platform - tell us what you have and roughly how much it may cost".


EOI - Expression of Interest

An EOI is very similar to an ITT - and some often use this term interchangeably. With an EOI, the goals are:


  • To ask the market what they have and allow them to provide material and literature that is aligned to what is being asked.

  • To take a large number of potential respondents to an RFP (something you want to avoid and we'll explain why shortly), and pre-filter this to a small number of partners

The EOI output will present those that have not only a solution that may meet your needs, but also the industry credentials, references or capabilities to back it up.

What you want to avoid at all costs are a huge number of respondents to an RFP.


RFP - Request for Proposal

An RFP asks for a proposal - and can include fiscal and time based details. The document includes not only the functional or non functional requirements that will make up the solution or service you're looking for, but also aspects of:


  • SEMP (Systems Engineering Management Plans)

  • SLA's (Service Level Agreements)

  • Incident and Change Management Processes.

  • Compliance

  • Data Protection and Privacy

  • Company Profile (Size, Structure, Location(s), Financials, also any ethical or morality topics such as diversity or sustainability policies.

This document is detailed - very detailed - and the reason you want to avoid more than 3-5 respondents given the scoring and assessment effort. A well written RFP document can get you 75% of the way there to generating a bill of materials (BOM) for procurement, and if it's a simple RFP, 'run' costs.


The Process

Processes can vary hugely, and a lot of our processes are mailable to the needs of the business - but we have a rule of thumb that we generally recommend and work to.

Step 1. Define your timeline - give yourself enough time at each stage of the process. Larger organisations are going to need more time at each juncture to assess and score, especially with devolved teams. Figure out who's going to take responsibility for each piece of the puzzle.

Step 2. Write your RFP - this will take a lot of time and focus. It needs to be clear, specific, measurable and objective. Remember to also consider how you're going to score and asses this. An apples for apples comparison is absolutely key. If you're a public broadcaster, it's even more critical given the ability for any respondent to make a freedom of information request. If there's variance in your scoring across parties, you'll need to be able to explain it.

Step 3. Issue your EOI - ask interested parties to submit their interest in the process. The goal of the EOI is to get your message out far and wide to get as much interest as possible. The more potential candidates, the more likely you will be to find a solution or provider that meets your needs. Don't be afraid to use social networks such as LinkedIn to tell the world about your process. You can also include NDA's if you need them. One option is to pre-sign these to allow the other party to countersign if they're mutual and fair.

Step 4. Sit back and wait - make yourself a beverage of your choice and sit back. Depending on the size and complexity, most suppliers and partners are going to need around 4 weeks minimum to complete and reply to this.

Step 5. Filtering and pre-qualification - from the EOI, you're going to receive a lot of initial interest - especially if you're a big household name. Step 5 should filter the list of potential candidates to a smaller list (5 at a maximum) of those that have the required domain experience, references, product, support and onboarding processes and flexibility.

Step 6. Scoring and assessment - if your RFP is well structured, this should be easy. The responses should follow your requests which hopefully have avoided statements like "describe.." or "tell us how…". This first pass scoring and assessment should generate a high level percentage score of compliance against your requirements. It's not going to give you a clear winner, but it will give you a good direction of travel. Suppliers should also be giving you good indicative pricing. One word of caution is to avoid pushing for contractually committed pricing at this stage. There will still be a lot of unknowns and suppliers will inflate pricing to give themselves room for manoeuvre.

Step 7. Supplier presentations and workshops - it's very hard to get a measure of how any respondent can fulfil your needs on paper. One of the most important aspects is cultural fit - can you work together. Setup a series of workshops and meetings with each respondent for them to present their proposal, and for your teams to quiz and interrogate it. Don't assume everything on the face of it is what it seems. The outputs of the these sessions may result in modification of some scores from Step 6. Remember to look at not only the solution, but the path to implementation and ongoing run effort.

Step 8. Negotiations and selection - there is a rule we work to - 1:10. 1 Hour spent upfront saves 10 at the end. If your requirements are clear and the responses aligned, getting to a final pricing proposal for build and run shouldn't be too complex. Additionally, the SOW and contract should align to the RFP requirements to avoid scope creep and the cost of change throughout the operation of the service.

Step 9. Statement of work - one of the most critical parts of the process. The SOW generated to onboard the provider or solution(s) should be reflective of the outputs from the RFI/RFP/ITT process. It should capture not only what the resulting solution will be, but how you're going to get there including details of the implementation plan, migration steps, timelines, risks and assumptions, caveats, resource allocations, test and acceptance processes, deliverables from the client or customer and more. It's can be a large, complex and layered document, but if it's not right, all of the work to this point will be for nothing - and the risk of unplanned costs (both time and financial) is huge.


Finally - 5 key ingredients for ensuring success

Capabilities focussed. Keep your RFP focussed on capabilities. Each capability should be unique (single in terms of what it's asking for), and measurable. It should give you a yes or no answer from a statement. Think MoSCoW.

Clear and objective. If your can't describe it clearly - there is no way a supplier or respondent will understand it. Keep the language simple and don't use internal terminology.

Cover everything. Whilst you're going to be focussed on the solution that you may receive at the outcome out of the process, don't forget the non functionals or details of how you'd like it to be implemented, supported, managed, developed on an ongoing basis.

Response template. If you don't provide something for respondents to complete, downstream scoring and assessment will become a nightmare. Your goal is to not think about this document in isolation, think of 5 of them laid out on a desk - does it allow you to move quickly line by line to objectively asses each response.

Fair and reasonable. Running a fair and reasonable process is paramount. A vendor or solution provider will ALWAYS struggle to put in words the explicit benefits of the solution, platform or product they are offering. Give them time to explain, to demonstrate, and to ask questions about your business. Both parties need a confidence level - BUT - be fair with allocations of time across respondents, and ensure that what is done for one, is done for the other.


Why not explore how Spicy Mango can simplify your next tender or procurement process. Learn more here.

Introduction

The underlying principals of a good RFI or RFP span both the 'process' and the 'materials' that make up the publication. Tendering is a complicated and time consuming process - and if it's not structured well, with good documentation, the output may be of little to no use, rendering all of your efforts fruitless.

This guide aims to talk through some key definitions, provide a walk through of an example process, and describe how to get closer to a solid framework to give you some useful measurable outputs.

Let's start with some basics and get a handle on the terminology.


Terminology

Many terms are used interchangeably. Whilst from my perspective, some have specific meanings, to others, they can fall into one of the same thing.


ITT - Invitation to tender

Put simply, it's what it says. An ITT invites the market to respond to a set of requests or requirements from a business. This term is often used interchangeably with EOI - described below.


RFI - Request for information

This can often be a very lightweight document, think of this like a market question "tell us what you have". You're going to get some varied material back that may include product overview decks, white-papers and literature. If you include enough detail in your initial RFI request, you may get some high level pricing, but many RFI requests simply indicate something like "we're looking for a new media asset management (MAM) platform - tell us what you have and roughly how much it may cost".


EOI - Expression of Interest

An EOI is very similar to an ITT - and some often use this term interchangeably. With an EOI, the goals are:


  • To ask the market what they have and allow them to provide material and literature that is aligned to what is being asked.

  • To take a large number of potential respondents to an RFP (something you want to avoid and we'll explain why shortly), and pre-filter this to a small number of partners

The EOI output will present those that have not only a solution that may meet your needs, but also the industry credentials, references or capabilities to back it up.

What you want to avoid at all costs are a huge number of respondents to an RFP.


RFP - Request for Proposal

An RFP asks for a proposal - and can include fiscal and time based details. The document includes not only the functional or non functional requirements that will make up the solution or service you're looking for, but also aspects of:


  • SEMP (Systems Engineering Management Plans)

  • SLA's (Service Level Agreements)

  • Incident and Change Management Processes.

  • Compliance

  • Data Protection and Privacy

  • Company Profile (Size, Structure, Location(s), Financials, also any ethical or morality topics such as diversity or sustainability policies.

This document is detailed - very detailed - and the reason you want to avoid more than 3-5 respondents given the scoring and assessment effort. A well written RFP document can get you 75% of the way there to generating a bill of materials (BOM) for procurement, and if it's a simple RFP, 'run' costs.


The Process

Processes can vary hugely, and a lot of our processes are mailable to the needs of the business - but we have a rule of thumb that we generally recommend and work to.

Step 1. Define your timeline - give yourself enough time at each stage of the process. Larger organisations are going to need more time at each juncture to assess and score, especially with devolved teams. Figure out who's going to take responsibility for each piece of the puzzle.

Step 2. Write your RFP - this will take a lot of time and focus. It needs to be clear, specific, measurable and objective. Remember to also consider how you're going to score and asses this. An apples for apples comparison is absolutely key. If you're a public broadcaster, it's even more critical given the ability for any respondent to make a freedom of information request. If there's variance in your scoring across parties, you'll need to be able to explain it.

Step 3. Issue your EOI - ask interested parties to submit their interest in the process. The goal of the EOI is to get your message out far and wide to get as much interest as possible. The more potential candidates, the more likely you will be to find a solution or provider that meets your needs. Don't be afraid to use social networks such as LinkedIn to tell the world about your process. You can also include NDA's if you need them. One option is to pre-sign these to allow the other party to countersign if they're mutual and fair.

Step 4. Sit back and wait - make yourself a beverage of your choice and sit back. Depending on the size and complexity, most suppliers and partners are going to need around 4 weeks minimum to complete and reply to this.

Step 5. Filtering and pre-qualification - from the EOI, you're going to receive a lot of initial interest - especially if you're a big household name. Step 5 should filter the list of potential candidates to a smaller list (5 at a maximum) of those that have the required domain experience, references, product, support and onboarding processes and flexibility.

Step 6. Scoring and assessment - if your RFP is well structured, this should be easy. The responses should follow your requests which hopefully have avoided statements like "describe.." or "tell us how…". This first pass scoring and assessment should generate a high level percentage score of compliance against your requirements. It's not going to give you a clear winner, but it will give you a good direction of travel. Suppliers should also be giving you good indicative pricing. One word of caution is to avoid pushing for contractually committed pricing at this stage. There will still be a lot of unknowns and suppliers will inflate pricing to give themselves room for manoeuvre.

Step 7. Supplier presentations and workshops - it's very hard to get a measure of how any respondent can fulfil your needs on paper. One of the most important aspects is cultural fit - can you work together. Setup a series of workshops and meetings with each respondent for them to present their proposal, and for your teams to quiz and interrogate it. Don't assume everything on the face of it is what it seems. The outputs of the these sessions may result in modification of some scores from Step 6. Remember to look at not only the solution, but the path to implementation and ongoing run effort.

Step 8. Negotiations and selection - there is a rule we work to - 1:10. 1 Hour spent upfront saves 10 at the end. If your requirements are clear and the responses aligned, getting to a final pricing proposal for build and run shouldn't be too complex. Additionally, the SOW and contract should align to the RFP requirements to avoid scope creep and the cost of change throughout the operation of the service.

Step 9. Statement of work - one of the most critical parts of the process. The SOW generated to onboard the provider or solution(s) should be reflective of the outputs from the RFI/RFP/ITT process. It should capture not only what the resulting solution will be, but how you're going to get there including details of the implementation plan, migration steps, timelines, risks and assumptions, caveats, resource allocations, test and acceptance processes, deliverables from the client or customer and more. It's can be a large, complex and layered document, but if it's not right, all of the work to this point will be for nothing - and the risk of unplanned costs (both time and financial) is huge.


Finally - 5 key ingredients for ensuring success

Capabilities focussed. Keep your RFP focussed on capabilities. Each capability should be unique (single in terms of what it's asking for), and measurable. It should give you a yes or no answer from a statement. Think MoSCoW.

Clear and objective. If your can't describe it clearly - there is no way a supplier or respondent will understand it. Keep the language simple and don't use internal terminology.

Cover everything. Whilst you're going to be focussed on the solution that you may receive at the outcome out of the process, don't forget the non functionals or details of how you'd like it to be implemented, supported, managed, developed on an ongoing basis.

Response template. If you don't provide something for respondents to complete, downstream scoring and assessment will become a nightmare. Your goal is to not think about this document in isolation, think of 5 of them laid out on a desk - does it allow you to move quickly line by line to objectively asses each response.

Fair and reasonable. Running a fair and reasonable process is paramount. A vendor or solution provider will ALWAYS struggle to put in words the explicit benefits of the solution, platform or product they are offering. Give them time to explain, to demonstrate, and to ask questions about your business. Both parties need a confidence level - BUT - be fair with allocations of time across respondents, and ensure that what is done for one, is done for the other.


Why not explore how Spicy Mango can simplify your next tender or procurement process. Learn more here.

Introduction

The underlying principals of a good RFI or RFP span both the 'process' and the 'materials' that make up the publication. Tendering is a complicated and time consuming process - and if it's not structured well, with good documentation, the output may be of little to no use, rendering all of your efforts fruitless.

This guide aims to talk through some key definitions, provide a walk through of an example process, and describe how to get closer to a solid framework to give you some useful measurable outputs.

Let's start with some basics and get a handle on the terminology.


Terminology

Many terms are used interchangeably. Whilst from my perspective, some have specific meanings, to others, they can fall into one of the same thing.


ITT - Invitation to tender

Put simply, it's what it says. An ITT invites the market to respond to a set of requests or requirements from a business. This term is often used interchangeably with EOI - described below.


RFI - Request for information

This can often be a very lightweight document, think of this like a market question "tell us what you have". You're going to get some varied material back that may include product overview decks, white-papers and literature. If you include enough detail in your initial RFI request, you may get some high level pricing, but many RFI requests simply indicate something like "we're looking for a new media asset management (MAM) platform - tell us what you have and roughly how much it may cost".


EOI - Expression of Interest

An EOI is very similar to an ITT - and some often use this term interchangeably. With an EOI, the goals are:


  • To ask the market what they have and allow them to provide material and literature that is aligned to what is being asked.

  • To take a large number of potential respondents to an RFP (something you want to avoid and we'll explain why shortly), and pre-filter this to a small number of partners

The EOI output will present those that have not only a solution that may meet your needs, but also the industry credentials, references or capabilities to back it up.

What you want to avoid at all costs are a huge number of respondents to an RFP.


RFP - Request for Proposal

An RFP asks for a proposal - and can include fiscal and time based details. The document includes not only the functional or non functional requirements that will make up the solution or service you're looking for, but also aspects of:


  • SEMP (Systems Engineering Management Plans)

  • SLA's (Service Level Agreements)

  • Incident and Change Management Processes.

  • Compliance

  • Data Protection and Privacy

  • Company Profile (Size, Structure, Location(s), Financials, also any ethical or morality topics such as diversity or sustainability policies.

This document is detailed - very detailed - and the reason you want to avoid more than 3-5 respondents given the scoring and assessment effort. A well written RFP document can get you 75% of the way there to generating a bill of materials (BOM) for procurement, and if it's a simple RFP, 'run' costs.


The Process

Processes can vary hugely, and a lot of our processes are mailable to the needs of the business - but we have a rule of thumb that we generally recommend and work to.

Step 1. Define your timeline - give yourself enough time at each stage of the process. Larger organisations are going to need more time at each juncture to assess and score, especially with devolved teams. Figure out who's going to take responsibility for each piece of the puzzle.

Step 2. Write your RFP - this will take a lot of time and focus. It needs to be clear, specific, measurable and objective. Remember to also consider how you're going to score and asses this. An apples for apples comparison is absolutely key. If you're a public broadcaster, it's even more critical given the ability for any respondent to make a freedom of information request. If there's variance in your scoring across parties, you'll need to be able to explain it.

Step 3. Issue your EOI - ask interested parties to submit their interest in the process. The goal of the EOI is to get your message out far and wide to get as much interest as possible. The more potential candidates, the more likely you will be to find a solution or provider that meets your needs. Don't be afraid to use social networks such as LinkedIn to tell the world about your process. You can also include NDA's if you need them. One option is to pre-sign these to allow the other party to countersign if they're mutual and fair.

Step 4. Sit back and wait - make yourself a beverage of your choice and sit back. Depending on the size and complexity, most suppliers and partners are going to need around 4 weeks minimum to complete and reply to this.

Step 5. Filtering and pre-qualification - from the EOI, you're going to receive a lot of initial interest - especially if you're a big household name. Step 5 should filter the list of potential candidates to a smaller list (5 at a maximum) of those that have the required domain experience, references, product, support and onboarding processes and flexibility.

Step 6. Scoring and assessment - if your RFP is well structured, this should be easy. The responses should follow your requests which hopefully have avoided statements like "describe.." or "tell us how…". This first pass scoring and assessment should generate a high level percentage score of compliance against your requirements. It's not going to give you a clear winner, but it will give you a good direction of travel. Suppliers should also be giving you good indicative pricing. One word of caution is to avoid pushing for contractually committed pricing at this stage. There will still be a lot of unknowns and suppliers will inflate pricing to give themselves room for manoeuvre.

Step 7. Supplier presentations and workshops - it's very hard to get a measure of how any respondent can fulfil your needs on paper. One of the most important aspects is cultural fit - can you work together. Setup a series of workshops and meetings with each respondent for them to present their proposal, and for your teams to quiz and interrogate it. Don't assume everything on the face of it is what it seems. The outputs of the these sessions may result in modification of some scores from Step 6. Remember to look at not only the solution, but the path to implementation and ongoing run effort.

Step 8. Negotiations and selection - there is a rule we work to - 1:10. 1 Hour spent upfront saves 10 at the end. If your requirements are clear and the responses aligned, getting to a final pricing proposal for build and run shouldn't be too complex. Additionally, the SOW and contract should align to the RFP requirements to avoid scope creep and the cost of change throughout the operation of the service.

Step 9. Statement of work - one of the most critical parts of the process. The SOW generated to onboard the provider or solution(s) should be reflective of the outputs from the RFI/RFP/ITT process. It should capture not only what the resulting solution will be, but how you're going to get there including details of the implementation plan, migration steps, timelines, risks and assumptions, caveats, resource allocations, test and acceptance processes, deliverables from the client or customer and more. It's can be a large, complex and layered document, but if it's not right, all of the work to this point will be for nothing - and the risk of unplanned costs (both time and financial) is huge.


Finally - 5 key ingredients for ensuring success

Capabilities focussed. Keep your RFP focussed on capabilities. Each capability should be unique (single in terms of what it's asking for), and measurable. It should give you a yes or no answer from a statement. Think MoSCoW.

Clear and objective. If your can't describe it clearly - there is no way a supplier or respondent will understand it. Keep the language simple and don't use internal terminology.

Cover everything. Whilst you're going to be focussed on the solution that you may receive at the outcome out of the process, don't forget the non functionals or details of how you'd like it to be implemented, supported, managed, developed on an ongoing basis.

Response template. If you don't provide something for respondents to complete, downstream scoring and assessment will become a nightmare. Your goal is to not think about this document in isolation, think of 5 of them laid out on a desk - does it allow you to move quickly line by line to objectively asses each response.

Fair and reasonable. Running a fair and reasonable process is paramount. A vendor or solution provider will ALWAYS struggle to put in words the explicit benefits of the solution, platform or product they are offering. Give them time to explain, to demonstrate, and to ask questions about your business. Both parties need a confidence level - BUT - be fair with allocations of time across respondents, and ensure that what is done for one, is done for the other.


Why not explore how Spicy Mango can simplify your next tender or procurement process. Learn more here.

Introduction

The underlying principals of a good RFI or RFP span both the 'process' and the 'materials' that make up the publication. Tendering is a complicated and time consuming process - and if it's not structured well, with good documentation, the output may be of little to no use, rendering all of your efforts fruitless.

This guide aims to talk through some key definitions, provide a walk through of an example process, and describe how to get closer to a solid framework to give you some useful measurable outputs.

Let's start with some basics and get a handle on the terminology.


Terminology

Many terms are used interchangeably. Whilst from my perspective, some have specific meanings, to others, they can fall into one of the same thing.


ITT - Invitation to tender

Put simply, it's what it says. An ITT invites the market to respond to a set of requests or requirements from a business. This term is often used interchangeably with EOI - described below.


RFI - Request for information

This can often be a very lightweight document, think of this like a market question "tell us what you have". You're going to get some varied material back that may include product overview decks, white-papers and literature. If you include enough detail in your initial RFI request, you may get some high level pricing, but many RFI requests simply indicate something like "we're looking for a new media asset management (MAM) platform - tell us what you have and roughly how much it may cost".


EOI - Expression of Interest

An EOI is very similar to an ITT - and some often use this term interchangeably. With an EOI, the goals are:


  • To ask the market what they have and allow them to provide material and literature that is aligned to what is being asked.

  • To take a large number of potential respondents to an RFP (something you want to avoid and we'll explain why shortly), and pre-filter this to a small number of partners

The EOI output will present those that have not only a solution that may meet your needs, but also the industry credentials, references or capabilities to back it up.

What you want to avoid at all costs are a huge number of respondents to an RFP.


RFP - Request for Proposal

An RFP asks for a proposal - and can include fiscal and time based details. The document includes not only the functional or non functional requirements that will make up the solution or service you're looking for, but also aspects of:


  • SEMP (Systems Engineering Management Plans)

  • SLA's (Service Level Agreements)

  • Incident and Change Management Processes.

  • Compliance

  • Data Protection and Privacy

  • Company Profile (Size, Structure, Location(s), Financials, also any ethical or morality topics such as diversity or sustainability policies.

This document is detailed - very detailed - and the reason you want to avoid more than 3-5 respondents given the scoring and assessment effort. A well written RFP document can get you 75% of the way there to generating a bill of materials (BOM) for procurement, and if it's a simple RFP, 'run' costs.


The Process

Processes can vary hugely, and a lot of our processes are mailable to the needs of the business - but we have a rule of thumb that we generally recommend and work to.

Step 1. Define your timeline - give yourself enough time at each stage of the process. Larger organisations are going to need more time at each juncture to assess and score, especially with devolved teams. Figure out who's going to take responsibility for each piece of the puzzle.

Step 2. Write your RFP - this will take a lot of time and focus. It needs to be clear, specific, measurable and objective. Remember to also consider how you're going to score and asses this. An apples for apples comparison is absolutely key. If you're a public broadcaster, it's even more critical given the ability for any respondent to make a freedom of information request. If there's variance in your scoring across parties, you'll need to be able to explain it.

Step 3. Issue your EOI - ask interested parties to submit their interest in the process. The goal of the EOI is to get your message out far and wide to get as much interest as possible. The more potential candidates, the more likely you will be to find a solution or provider that meets your needs. Don't be afraid to use social networks such as LinkedIn to tell the world about your process. You can also include NDA's if you need them. One option is to pre-sign these to allow the other party to countersign if they're mutual and fair.

Step 4. Sit back and wait - make yourself a beverage of your choice and sit back. Depending on the size and complexity, most suppliers and partners are going to need around 4 weeks minimum to complete and reply to this.

Step 5. Filtering and pre-qualification - from the EOI, you're going to receive a lot of initial interest - especially if you're a big household name. Step 5 should filter the list of potential candidates to a smaller list (5 at a maximum) of those that have the required domain experience, references, product, support and onboarding processes and flexibility.

Step 6. Scoring and assessment - if your RFP is well structured, this should be easy. The responses should follow your requests which hopefully have avoided statements like "describe.." or "tell us how…". This first pass scoring and assessment should generate a high level percentage score of compliance against your requirements. It's not going to give you a clear winner, but it will give you a good direction of travel. Suppliers should also be giving you good indicative pricing. One word of caution is to avoid pushing for contractually committed pricing at this stage. There will still be a lot of unknowns and suppliers will inflate pricing to give themselves room for manoeuvre.

Step 7. Supplier presentations and workshops - it's very hard to get a measure of how any respondent can fulfil your needs on paper. One of the most important aspects is cultural fit - can you work together. Setup a series of workshops and meetings with each respondent for them to present their proposal, and for your teams to quiz and interrogate it. Don't assume everything on the face of it is what it seems. The outputs of the these sessions may result in modification of some scores from Step 6. Remember to look at not only the solution, but the path to implementation and ongoing run effort.

Step 8. Negotiations and selection - there is a rule we work to - 1:10. 1 Hour spent upfront saves 10 at the end. If your requirements are clear and the responses aligned, getting to a final pricing proposal for build and run shouldn't be too complex. Additionally, the SOW and contract should align to the RFP requirements to avoid scope creep and the cost of change throughout the operation of the service.

Step 9. Statement of work - one of the most critical parts of the process. The SOW generated to onboard the provider or solution(s) should be reflective of the outputs from the RFI/RFP/ITT process. It should capture not only what the resulting solution will be, but how you're going to get there including details of the implementation plan, migration steps, timelines, risks and assumptions, caveats, resource allocations, test and acceptance processes, deliverables from the client or customer and more. It's can be a large, complex and layered document, but if it's not right, all of the work to this point will be for nothing - and the risk of unplanned costs (both time and financial) is huge.


Finally - 5 key ingredients for ensuring success

Capabilities focussed. Keep your RFP focussed on capabilities. Each capability should be unique (single in terms of what it's asking for), and measurable. It should give you a yes or no answer from a statement. Think MoSCoW.

Clear and objective. If your can't describe it clearly - there is no way a supplier or respondent will understand it. Keep the language simple and don't use internal terminology.

Cover everything. Whilst you're going to be focussed on the solution that you may receive at the outcome out of the process, don't forget the non functionals or details of how you'd like it to be implemented, supported, managed, developed on an ongoing basis.

Response template. If you don't provide something for respondents to complete, downstream scoring and assessment will become a nightmare. Your goal is to not think about this document in isolation, think of 5 of them laid out on a desk - does it allow you to move quickly line by line to objectively asses each response.

Fair and reasonable. Running a fair and reasonable process is paramount. A vendor or solution provider will ALWAYS struggle to put in words the explicit benefits of the solution, platform or product they are offering. Give them time to explain, to demonstrate, and to ask questions about your business. Both parties need a confidence level - BUT - be fair with allocations of time across respondents, and ensure that what is done for one, is done for the other.


Why not explore how Spicy Mango can simplify your next tender or procurement process. Learn more here.

Introduction

The underlying principals of a good RFI or RFP span both the 'process' and the 'materials' that make up the publication. Tendering is a complicated and time consuming process - and if it's not structured well, with good documentation, the output may be of little to no use, rendering all of your efforts fruitless.

This guide aims to talk through some key definitions, provide a walk through of an example process, and describe how to get closer to a solid framework to give you some useful measurable outputs.

Let's start with some basics and get a handle on the terminology.


Terminology

Many terms are used interchangeably. Whilst from my perspective, some have specific meanings, to others, they can fall into one of the same thing.


ITT - Invitation to tender

Put simply, it's what it says. An ITT invites the market to respond to a set of requests or requirements from a business. This term is often used interchangeably with EOI - described below.


RFI - Request for information

This can often be a very lightweight document, think of this like a market question "tell us what you have". You're going to get some varied material back that may include product overview decks, white-papers and literature. If you include enough detail in your initial RFI request, you may get some high level pricing, but many RFI requests simply indicate something like "we're looking for a new media asset management (MAM) platform - tell us what you have and roughly how much it may cost".


EOI - Expression of Interest

An EOI is very similar to an ITT - and some often use this term interchangeably. With an EOI, the goals are:


  • To ask the market what they have and allow them to provide material and literature that is aligned to what is being asked.

  • To take a large number of potential respondents to an RFP (something you want to avoid and we'll explain why shortly), and pre-filter this to a small number of partners

The EOI output will present those that have not only a solution that may meet your needs, but also the industry credentials, references or capabilities to back it up.

What you want to avoid at all costs are a huge number of respondents to an RFP.


RFP - Request for Proposal

An RFP asks for a proposal - and can include fiscal and time based details. The document includes not only the functional or non functional requirements that will make up the solution or service you're looking for, but also aspects of:


  • SEMP (Systems Engineering Management Plans)

  • SLA's (Service Level Agreements)

  • Incident and Change Management Processes.

  • Compliance

  • Data Protection and Privacy

  • Company Profile (Size, Structure, Location(s), Financials, also any ethical or morality topics such as diversity or sustainability policies.

This document is detailed - very detailed - and the reason you want to avoid more than 3-5 respondents given the scoring and assessment effort. A well written RFP document can get you 75% of the way there to generating a bill of materials (BOM) for procurement, and if it's a simple RFP, 'run' costs.


The Process

Processes can vary hugely, and a lot of our processes are mailable to the needs of the business - but we have a rule of thumb that we generally recommend and work to.

Step 1. Define your timeline - give yourself enough time at each stage of the process. Larger organisations are going to need more time at each juncture to assess and score, especially with devolved teams. Figure out who's going to take responsibility for each piece of the puzzle.

Step 2. Write your RFP - this will take a lot of time and focus. It needs to be clear, specific, measurable and objective. Remember to also consider how you're going to score and asses this. An apples for apples comparison is absolutely key. If you're a public broadcaster, it's even more critical given the ability for any respondent to make a freedom of information request. If there's variance in your scoring across parties, you'll need to be able to explain it.

Step 3. Issue your EOI - ask interested parties to submit their interest in the process. The goal of the EOI is to get your message out far and wide to get as much interest as possible. The more potential candidates, the more likely you will be to find a solution or provider that meets your needs. Don't be afraid to use social networks such as LinkedIn to tell the world about your process. You can also include NDA's if you need them. One option is to pre-sign these to allow the other party to countersign if they're mutual and fair.

Step 4. Sit back and wait - make yourself a beverage of your choice and sit back. Depending on the size and complexity, most suppliers and partners are going to need around 4 weeks minimum to complete and reply to this.

Step 5. Filtering and pre-qualification - from the EOI, you're going to receive a lot of initial interest - especially if you're a big household name. Step 5 should filter the list of potential candidates to a smaller list (5 at a maximum) of those that have the required domain experience, references, product, support and onboarding processes and flexibility.

Step 6. Scoring and assessment - if your RFP is well structured, this should be easy. The responses should follow your requests which hopefully have avoided statements like "describe.." or "tell us how…". This first pass scoring and assessment should generate a high level percentage score of compliance against your requirements. It's not going to give you a clear winner, but it will give you a good direction of travel. Suppliers should also be giving you good indicative pricing. One word of caution is to avoid pushing for contractually committed pricing at this stage. There will still be a lot of unknowns and suppliers will inflate pricing to give themselves room for manoeuvre.

Step 7. Supplier presentations and workshops - it's very hard to get a measure of how any respondent can fulfil your needs on paper. One of the most important aspects is cultural fit - can you work together. Setup a series of workshops and meetings with each respondent for them to present their proposal, and for your teams to quiz and interrogate it. Don't assume everything on the face of it is what it seems. The outputs of the these sessions may result in modification of some scores from Step 6. Remember to look at not only the solution, but the path to implementation and ongoing run effort.

Step 8. Negotiations and selection - there is a rule we work to - 1:10. 1 Hour spent upfront saves 10 at the end. If your requirements are clear and the responses aligned, getting to a final pricing proposal for build and run shouldn't be too complex. Additionally, the SOW and contract should align to the RFP requirements to avoid scope creep and the cost of change throughout the operation of the service.

Step 9. Statement of work - one of the most critical parts of the process. The SOW generated to onboard the provider or solution(s) should be reflective of the outputs from the RFI/RFP/ITT process. It should capture not only what the resulting solution will be, but how you're going to get there including details of the implementation plan, migration steps, timelines, risks and assumptions, caveats, resource allocations, test and acceptance processes, deliverables from the client or customer and more. It's can be a large, complex and layered document, but if it's not right, all of the work to this point will be for nothing - and the risk of unplanned costs (both time and financial) is huge.


Finally - 5 key ingredients for ensuring success

Capabilities focussed. Keep your RFP focussed on capabilities. Each capability should be unique (single in terms of what it's asking for), and measurable. It should give you a yes or no answer from a statement. Think MoSCoW.

Clear and objective. If your can't describe it clearly - there is no way a supplier or respondent will understand it. Keep the language simple and don't use internal terminology.

Cover everything. Whilst you're going to be focussed on the solution that you may receive at the outcome out of the process, don't forget the non functionals or details of how you'd like it to be implemented, supported, managed, developed on an ongoing basis.

Response template. If you don't provide something for respondents to complete, downstream scoring and assessment will become a nightmare. Your goal is to not think about this document in isolation, think of 5 of them laid out on a desk - does it allow you to move quickly line by line to objectively asses each response.

Fair and reasonable. Running a fair and reasonable process is paramount. A vendor or solution provider will ALWAYS struggle to put in words the explicit benefits of the solution, platform or product they are offering. Give them time to explain, to demonstrate, and to ask questions about your business. Both parties need a confidence level - BUT - be fair with allocations of time across respondents, and ensure that what is done for one, is done for the other.


Why not explore how Spicy Mango can simplify your next tender or procurement process. Learn more here.

More insights you may enjoy

More insights you may enjoy

More insights you may enjoy

More insights you may enjoy

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We don’t share your personal details with anyone

Get in touch

Contact us - we don't bite

Drop us an email at hello@spicymango.co.uk or call us on +44 (0)844 848 0441 or fill out the contact form below for a friendly chat.

We don’t share your personal details with anyone

Get in touch

Contact us - we don't bite

Drop us an email at hello@spicymango.co.uk or call us on +44 (0)844 848 0441 or fill out the contact form below for a friendly chat.

We don’t share your personal details with anyone