Anytime an IT pro works with an installer/MSP, the first step is creating a request for proposal (RFP) for the technology you’re searching for. Here’s how.
It is at the very beginning stage of an installer-enterprise partnership that companies decide to construct and send out a RFP for technology services, or a request for proposal.
When a company is in need of a technology installer to come in and design or install a new system, the process of finding the right firm can be daunting.
Depending on the complication of the build, choosing the right firm could mean choosing a partner to work with for years to come.
The firm needs to have the right system in mind, they need to understand the needs of the company and the end users that will use the system, and they need to complete their work with certain quality, monetary, and temporal constraints.
A request for proposal, in essence, communicates to installers the expectations that a company has for a system that they need.
A technology RFP can include a range of different specifications, from exact number of items that will be needed, to specific design necessities, to general operation requirements with little or no information on how those requirements will be met. RFPs are a great way to set expectations for the project.
There are two basic types of RFPs: those with prescriptive based specifications, and those with work results-based specifications.
Prescriptive RFPs are itemized, detailed, and extremely specific. Often these RFPs will already have a design in mind, and the integrator’s role will be to implant the system in exactly the way that it has been specified.
These technology RFPs include specific products that will be used in the build, as well as how many of each item will be needed. They have detailed design drawings that will be used to create the system.
These RFPs are created by technically savvy personnel within the company or, more often, outside consultants that have been hired to create the RFP.
Then there are the less informed end users that don’t have the knowledge to design their own system, or the capital to hire a consultant on top of an integration firm.
Work results RFPs focus on what the system will do. They don’t include specific products or a design because that is what they want the integration firm to decide for them. Instead they focus on expectations for the build.
Explain what the system should be able to do, how it should be able to work with the systems that you already have in place, and what type of training will be required once the system has been installed.
Finally, make sure to have the end user that will be interacting most with the system look over the RFP before sending it out. This will ensure that all needs are met.
A technology RFP is the preferred and in many cases, mandated way for companies to do business with outside suppliers.
The document is created internally and sent to potential suppliers or providers. If done properly, the process should be tightly structured with information specific to a product or a project and a list of revealing questions designed to level the playing field for respondents that want to work with an organization.
The objective is for a company to be able to make informed business decisions based on the information supplied in the response to the RFP.
With an understanding of what’s involved in the RFP process, both from a creation and response perspective, we will be better prepared to navigate “business waters”.
In IT, audio visual and digital signage, there is typically a process that precedes the writing and issuing of a request for proposal (RFP). That process is the needs analysis phase.
This is an internal examination by the company with input from the various stakeholders who will be affected by the updated or new system. It may also include the hiring of a design consultant or a design/build firm to help in the system design and the preparation of the RFP.
This sets the stage for writing the RFP and ensures that pertinent issues are taken into consideration, options reviewed, and that the products involved will meet the objectives of the project.
Once this is done a company is prepared to write the RFP which will go out to potential integration firms that will provide the actual work on the project as stated in the RFP.
Finding the right integration firm can be challenging but the RFP and responses can be your safety net.
A request for proposal communicates to integrators the expectations and requirements that an organization has for a new or re-designed system that they are considering.
A technology RFP can include a range of different requirements, inclusion of existing equipment, provision for new equipment, specifications, from the exact number of items that will be needed, to specific design necessities, to general operation requirements.
Many RFPs begin with a Request for Information (RFI).
This is an outreach from a company to a potential supplier(s) to “Tell us a little bit about yourself, services, and products.” The goal of the RFI is to identify a group of companies who might have the potential to effectively provide a product or service.
The RFI will ask a standardized set of qualifier questions concerning a company’s history, capabilities, ownership, and other key details.
When the responses have been evaluated a company will use them to establish a qualified pool of potential integration contractors.
The next step in the process is for the company to create and issue an RFP.
The RFP will provide details on what the company does, and it will describe an existing and a desired set of conditions or parameters.
The RFP would go out to those companies identified during the RFI process.
Unless it is a distinctly closed process, it might also be picked up by companies that collect RFPs as a service so that businesses not sent the RFI can respond with the services that they offer.
Technology RFPs should not be created in a vacuum and many projects have a degree of complexity.
This requires a team approach. Each department that will be affected by the RFP should be represented and have a stakeholder involved.
This will ensure that critical details are not overlooked and that the interaction between different elements included in the RFP are in sync with one another. In the end, this will save time, money, and ensure consistency in responses.
The RFP for technology services will provide a list of specific questions that each respondent company must answer.
These could include prior experience, sample timelines, company processes, team members, and other pertinent information.
The questions are often detailed, and the answers will provide a thorough look at the interested companies.
Perhaps the most important piece of information of the RFP process is the project proposal from the respondent.
This is where each company will share their unique solution approach along with how they propose it to be implemented.
Responses to questions and the proposals will allow the company to have an “apples to apples” comparison of potential companies to work with.
Understand that in more complex projects, there may well be clarifications requested by the respondents.
This tends to identify areas that are unclear that may affect a given response to the RFP. Keep in mind that the goals of the RFP responses are clarity and specificity.
The following template tailored for systems integration is offered as a good place to start regarding the information that should be considered.
Keep in mind that some “boilerplate” questions are universal common to most RFPS, but several sections will be specific to an application, product, or type of system.