RFP: Really Failed Plan?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

As anyone who has looked at my profile on gantthead knows, I run my own consulting firm--so I see a fair number of Request For Proposals that my company is invited to respond to. This can be a great way to pick up business from new customers--or at the very least increase the number of people that know that we exist. However, I am constantly amazed by just how bad some RFPs are, and it really makes me wonder how clear the purchasing organization is on what they are trying to achieve. In this article, I don’t want to provide an RFP template--there are too many variables involved. But I do want to look at the process that an organization goes through in preparing and issuing an RFP, and perhaps identify some best practices.

What are you trying to achieve?
Let’s start with the fundamentals, because often that seems to be where things go wrong. An RFP is a way for you to communicate with potential vendors to help them to understand the work that you are procuring, what you are trying to achieve, how you are going to decide who to award the contract to and perhaps how you expect the work to be conducted. That’s a lot of stuff, and unless you have figured that out internally you can’t be expected to explain it to potential vendors who don’t know your organization as well as you do. The RFP document is not a starting point--it’s the last …

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It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers.

- James Thurber

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