RFPs, RFQs & RFIs: a few of my favourite acronyms

RFPs, RFQs & RFIs: a few of my favourite acronyms

When I think back to some requests for proposals (RFPs) that I’ve written, in retrospect, they were long documents that asked for a lot. But I wouldn’t have approached it differently because these RFPs were key components in selection processes for complex projects that resulted in getting the best vendors for the tasks at hand.

An RFP is a document issued by an organization in need of a service, such as web development, design, or communications/marketing. The organization issuing an RFP has committed to selecting a vendor through a competitive bidding process because of internal company policies or government rules.

Writing an effective RFP is a challenge. On the one hand, you need to clearly outline the following:

  • Background on your organization
  • Description of the project and services required
  • List of specific deliverables needed for the project
  • A draft timeline for the project
  • Information on the content and format that submissions must follow
  • Information on the selection process
  • Disclaimers and other legalese

On the other hand, you need to do all of that in as clear and concise a document as possible. The goal is to convince strong vendors who will be a good fit with your organization to submit RFPs. Preparing responses to RFPs is a lot of work. A vendor who finds an RFP confusing or excessive in its length and/or requirements will pass on submitting. That could be an opportunity lost for working with an excellent and responsive vendor.

RFPs are especially important for digital projects. There are many digital shops out there who have the experience, skills, and creativity to deliver on your requirements. An RFP process is therefore a good way to select the best vendor for these projects. For smaller projects, it may be appropriate to do a smaller request for quotation (RFQ) or request for information (RFI) process, where you’re primarily asking for a quote and specific information.

All of that said, if you have a good relationship with a vendor who has delivered for you in the past, it may be best to stick with that firm. If you’re not subject to rules on competitive bidding, and you know the vendor can get the job done, then you can save yourself and the vendor a lot of time. Keep in mind also that some vendors have a policy of not responding to RFPs.

Ultimately, you need to stay true to your policies, processes, and instincts when it comes to selecting a vendor. If you decide an RFP or RFQ is needed (or if it’s decided for you), then it’s time to take on the challenge of going down the road of preparing one of these documents – a challenge I enjoy.

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