Writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) is a crucial step in any project with external partners. It is the document that outlines the scope of work, timelines, and budgets for the project. A good RFP helps agencies understand your requirements and expectations, and enables them to respond with proposals that are relevant and aligned with your goals.
These key points for writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) come from our experience in many Advatera knowledge sharing meetings, where members shared their projects.
- Define the project scope: Start by clearly defining the project scope, objectives, and goals. This should include the purpose of the website or intranet, target audience, desired core functionality, and any other requirements.
- Include a detailed timeline: Include a detailed timeline that outlines the key milestones of the project, including deadlines for deliverables and milestones. This will help the agency understand the time commitment required and plan their resources accordingly.
- Determine your budget: It is important to consider your budget when developing your RFP, as it will help agencies understand the financial constraints for the project. Defining your budget might help you get realistic offers from agencies within your project scope. On the other hand, not disclosing your budget may enable you to get a better idea of what the project involves and put more pressure on competition between the agencies to come up with the best solution. The decision to disclose your budget or not depends on your goals and priorities for the project.
- Request individual references: When evaluating agencies, it’s important to ask for references of the team members who will be directly working on your project. This will help you understand the expertise of the team members who will be directly working on your project. However, some agencies may refuse to provide individual references, citing that they cannot guarantee the makeup of the team upfront. While this may be true to some extent, it is reasonable to expect that they can identify the core team members who will be working on your project. If an agency is unable or unwilling to provide individual references, you may want to reconsider including them in the selection process.
- Use use-cases instead of feature lists: Rather than listing out features, provide use-cases that illustrate how the website or intranet will be used. This will help agencies understand your requirements in context and enable them to propose solutions that align with your needs.
- Don’t be too detailed: Sometimes RFPs tend to be too detailed, especially because the procurement or legal department wants to have a good way to verify later if everything was delivered. However, nowadays projects are developed in an agile way, and defining every detail in the RFP upfront contradicts the agile development process. Make sure that on the one hand, agencies have a clear understanding of the project scope and submit a proposal for a final product, but on the other hand have enough freedom to develop a good agile solution.
- Conduct real-life tests: If the RFP includes new tools or technologies, conduct real-life tests with those tools before finalizing the RFP. This will enable you to identify any potential issues or limitations early on and ensure that the agency is proposing solutions that are feasible and realistic.
- Share a detailed cost spreadsheet: Provide a detailed cost spreadsheet that outlines the different cost components of the project. This will enable agencies to provide proposals that are aligned with your budget and enable you to compare different proposals easily.
- Request missing items: Be open to feedback and request any missing items that may be critical to the project. This will enable the agency to provide a comprehensive proposal that meets all of your requirements.
- Schedule full-day workshops: Invite the top 3-5 agencies to full-day workshops where they can showcase their solutions to the most important use-cases. This will enable you to get a sense of their approach and how they would solve specific challenges.
- Consider a Pocathon: Another option to evaluate agencies is to conduct a Pocathon, where you invite the top 3-5 agencies to a hackathon-style event where they can work on specific tasks related to the project. This will enable you to evaluate their technical expertise, creativity, and teamwork skills in real-time. By involving your project team and other stakeholders in the evaluation process, you can also get a sense of how well the agency’s solutions align with your organization’s values and priorities.
- Conduct a proof-of-concept phase: Include a proof-of-concept phase in the contract with the winning agency. This will enable you to test the solution and identify any issues early on before committing to a full-scale implementation. Make sure that you have a way out of the contract if working with the agency does not meet your expectations, without losing the material that was worked on already. This will help protect your investment in the project and enable you to find an agency that is a better fit for your needs.
- Don’t forget to present your organization: Finally, don’t forget to present your organization and products to the agencies very early in the selection process. This will enable them to understand your company culture, values, and priorities, and enable you to find an agency that is a good fit for your team.
Writing a good RFP is critical to the success of any project. By following these key points, you can ensure that you get proposals that are relevant, feasible, and aligned with your goals.