Andy Precious Andy Precious | 26 Oct 2015


The following article will give you a good guide on what makes an engaging Request for proposal (RFP) and any considerations to look out for in order to help make key decisions  such as choosing an digital agency and forming a plan. 

So if you're a Project Manager, a Technical Project Manager or Project Sponsor looking at starting a digital project, this is a good place to start.

What is a RFP?

A RFP is a publication of detailed requirements by a prospective buyer in order to receive vendor offerings. Usually dedicated to software evaluation, comparison, and selection, a request for proposal may be issued to select any kind of products and services. RFP publication is an efficient tool to gather solution capabilities, which are then put into a decision matrix allowing the selection of the solution that best fits the requirements.

Why do a RFP in the first place?

Essentially to give you the information you need to make decisions about agency and software partners. An acronym to make sure what you're trying to achieve from the RFP is CREDIT. 

Commitment – Where the agency or platform demonstrate that they want to work together and that there is commitment and enthusiasm to deliver. Have they taken the time and investment needed to compile to produce a quality response to the RFP?

Relationship – Listening to your requests and challenging you in certain areas, this can help businesses define and identify areas, questions or issues throughout the process of selecting a preferred supplier.

Experience - Qualifies the agency or platform to see if they are knowledgeable and have the experience to meet the requirements.

Differentiate – From the answers provided, it helps in comparing an agency or platform. This also gives the opportunity to ask the right questions at the correct time.

Impressions – First impressions are just that, from how the agency or platform respond you can get a vibe about them. This may help answer some of your questions including whether you want to work with them.

Time – How quickly have the agency or partner responded? The follow-up should be responsive and timely.

Things to avoid

If you don't know what the end result looks like, don’t ask for a proposal for the entire implementation. Instead you should ask for a proposal for an initial scoping exercise and then take the project and relationship from there.

A long list of function requirements or too many tech details. Functional requirements can force you into selecting an unnecessarily complex system. If a platform can deliver all the requirements, it doesn’t mean this platform is the most suitable.

Potentially hiding any gremlins. The most tricky bits of your project should be communicated upfront. 

For example, the last thing you need is a creative agency with blue sky thinking, if the systems that support your business are crumbling around your knees.

Picking a winner before you create your RFP. This exposes you to a large amount of risk, as if your preferred supplier doesn’t perform, you will end up with egg on your face and will have to re-run the whole process again. This wastes budget and delays the project end date.

Technology decisions. At the point of writing your RFP you are thinking about requirements and ideas. Technology can be a limiting factor on your vision. At Quba we think it is far better to decide what the scope of your project is before committing to a platform. Therefore you're choosing the best platform to meet the requirements and the best tool for the job.

Not getting key stakeholders involved right from the very start to have their input. You want to have clear, concise communication internally to put some objectives on what the project should or could achieve. One major issue is trying to get any potential partners or agencies to understand the business and make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Not disclosing your budget. This is crucial as you will get better responses and follow-ups in the RFP document from your chosen agency or platforms. From an agency or platform's point of view, they want to know if there is a realistic budget that matches the requirements. Then the agency will qualify this as a good lead and spend the appropriate amount of time as an investment to return the RFP.   

Realistic - Asking for a list of things that gives you no real proof of what the partner will do to achieve your vision.

Be aware of your own limitations - Whether that be internal or external. External factors could include industry compliance or competitor activity/market conditions in your sector. Internal factors include the or culture of your business, the organisation structure/sign off process and the amount of resources / skill-sets available to utilise. 

The most common issue!

Most business really don’t know what requirements they want and why they want it. To compensate for this, all the requirements of everything they can think of is added to the RFP.

We believe your partner should add value to the project, give you the honest information upfront and present you the client with all the necessary information, so you can make informed decisions. A key to what we do at Quba is challenge your requirements where we feel necessary. As we are an multi-discipline agency with experienced personnel in each of their respective disciplines, we are in a perfect position to provoke conversations about the requirements.

Not knowing all the requirements is fine – Honestly!

If you don't know something 'don't act all Pinocchio'. Misleading a prospective partner by making up requirements will inevitably get you into trouble. Typical examples of this might include claiming to know the level of traffic that will need to be supported by plucking a figure out of Google Analytics or claiming that an integration is incredibly simple when actually it is complex. In these situations you will get RFP responses to a brief which does not represent your real requirements.

If you don't know everything just put together the key project objectives of what you want to achieve and why. Then any reputable agency/platform will add the detail of how/what/why and give options that ‘x’ ‘y’ and ‘z’ is required/needed to fulfill the original key project objectives.

How can you judge that the supplier has understood?

In terms of viewing the responses from the RFP from the agency/partners, this would be a judgement call but if the agency does not understand the requirements, they will either do two things:

  1. Give very basic, simple answers with no context to your brief.
  2. Include too much information, the ‘throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick’ method

Key Takeaways

Comparing the responses – An idea to perhaps to send the RFP in an Excel format, then comparing responses in a columns approach may give you a strong indication on creating a shortlist of partners/agencies to work with.

RFPs create information so you can make a more engaging decision, another interesting article to make decision making can be found from Forbes

Only put in important requirements, long RFPs do not guarantee a high quality response. Take a look at some templates which will help find a structure to start from.

Don’t just select a platform, select an agency with it. Even if you plan on doing many things yourself and on building your own skills, you still need to ensure that there is somebody available to assist and support you.