Tech Selection Tips #10: Create RFPs That Actually Work

An effective RFP or "tender" goes a long way toward attracting an effective, substantive response from suppliers.  Over the past sixteen years, I've reviewed or authored more than 100 RFPs, and along the way, have developed some strong opinions on how they should work.

An RFP has four key segments. First, you want to introduce your enterprise and the business problem you are trying to solve. Second, the core of your RFP should lie with your user stories, followed by technical and business questions. Third, you need to obtain key vendor and pricing information in a structured way. Finally, you must be very clear about the schedule and process for selection.

RFP Inverted Triangle
An RFP is a critical part of an agile technology selection process.

If you are an RSG research subscriber, contact us about obtaining a useful template to jump-start your efforts.

RFP Tips

  • Avoid overly long and detailed technical requirements at this stage, which risk dwarfing clear business priorities
  • Do pose key technical issues as "how" questions ("how do you integrate with Salesforce?")
  • Put most of your effort into crafting effective user stories, which are the heart and soul of your RFP
  • Be flexible enough in how you shape your requirements for suppliers to provide creative solutions to your problems
  • Give vendors a reasonable timeframe to respond (at least four to six weeks)
  • Allow vendors to ask questions in writing, on a specific deadline)
  • Make clear in word and deed that the RFP is not “hard-wired” for any single bidder
  • Be sure to preview that you will follow a test-based selection process, including a competitive PoC
  • Treat prospective bidders as you would want to be treated yourself

We're tough advocates for you the customer, but that last line is important: polite-yet-firm always carries the day...

Next Steps

If you're selecting digital workplace or marketing/engagement technology, be sure to check out RSG's hard-hitting vendor evaluation research.

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