I don’t classify myself as an expert on Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Information (RFI) documents. That’s probably a good thing, because too much experience with any given topic tends to create blinders for creative thought. But I’ve been through the process a few times both as a requester and provider. Here are two thoughts I have on the process.
The format of the RFP/RFI response
Sometimes I see responses to a RFP/RFI requested within an Excel spreadsheet. The questions don’t ask for numerical, single word, or even single sentence responses. Using a spreadsheet for paragraph responses is a challenge and definitely limits the option of the responder to give enriched content.
Most RFP/RFI documents ask for responses in a very specific format so that the reviewing committee can compare apples to apples in the response review process. We want everyone graded on the same scale right? The more I think about this, the more I think it may not be the best way to approach the response definition. This process isn’t about making life easier on a committee assigned to pick the best response. It’s really about solving a need for a customer. Allow potential providers to show their stuff. The providers need some freedom to be creative so they can express why their product/service is the best fit for the customer.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any structure within the response. The RFP/RFI document defines the current business needs, requirements, and other criteria that must be in the response. I’m advocating allowing the providers some freedom and flexibility to choose how they respond to the stated needs.
Communicating the decision
As a requester, when you communicate back to each respondent make sure to give them relevant feedback about your decision. Especially for those providers that are not awarded a job or further consideration. Creating an RFP/RFI takes time and effort and responding to one even more time. So don’t shortcut at the end and make sure togive relevant and credible feedback. You never know when your paths may cross again in the future and you want to make sure to leave the engagement on the best terms possible.