Why Write an RFP?
An RFP fills an important gap between the initial project definition phase and the implementation phase of the project. The RFP provides the structure that allows you to take the project requirements that have been developed and put them into a form that suppliers can use, understand, and respond to. The RFP also spells out how the project is to be implemented (the next phase), what the first steps will be, and how success will be measured.
The RFP is an intermediate, but important, step in a project. It facilitates someone's wish to buy new technology or replace old technology, but the RFP is a means to an end, not the end itself. On the other side of the fence, the RFP lays the groundwork for the project but is not the project itself. As with any undertaking, if the foundation is not solid, the project will more than likely not be successful. An RFP allows you to state the project management requirements and to get the supplier's buy-in (in writing) thus ensuring that you will have good project controls when the project begins.
Why write an RFP? It allows you to gather and develop the essential components of a project as shown in Figure 1.3. Each of the four wings in the illustration represents a major concept in an RFP. The RFP itself is the unifying document that will lay the groundwork for how the project will be controlled from the time the contract is awarded to, perhaps, when the contract is finished and the project is no longer operational.
Once a contract has been awarded to a supplier, the agreed-upon project plan and schedule will become the primary method for organizing and controlling the project implementation and, perhaps, the life cycle of the project itself.
As with the saying, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there," the RFP not only tells suppliers where you are going but also selects the road on which they will travel.
Figure 1.3 Essential components of an RFP
The advantages of using an RFP far outweigh the potential problems of dealing directly with suppliers and of not having a formal set of requirements to work from.
An RFP forces suppliers to create competitive solutions that not only respond to the RFP requirements but go beyond them, thus providing additional value for a given price.
An RFP does not favor one supplier over another, but allows all to compete fairly based on the same set of rules and requirements.
Because suppliers are working from the same set of rules and requirements, it will be easier to understand the differences between proposed solutions.
Having similar, but different, proposed solutions facilitates the evaluation.