How to Issue an RFP for IT Services/Products

1/13/17 3:58 PM Holly Gutwein RFP Issuing

How to issue an RFP for IT servicesproducts.pngIf you're reading this, you're probably looking to choose a new IT provider/software/service, or perhaps hire an IT consultant, learn how to issue an RFP for IT consultants here

No small feat. 

Unlike IT (Information Technology), some selection decisions are simple, like buying commodities and simple products. IT on the other hand is whole other animal. Your requirements are complicated, you're worried about data security, implementation time frame, and breadth of industry expertise. 

But don't panic. Here are some simple tips for issuing your next IT-related RFP, including if you issue the RFP, how to find the right RFP template, and the critical factors to include.

How to issue an RFP for IT services/products

Step 1. ask why you're issuing the RFP? 

First, let's talk about why most IT services RFPs are issued. According to this insightful article from Tech Target, it's likely one of three reasons: 

  • The buyer is trying to get a better bid from their preferred provider 
  • It's company protocol
  • Or they're trying to figure out how to "implement the service on their own"  

If that rings true, you may want to rethink your strategy. If you're just trying to get a better bid, your time may be better spent issuing a RFQ (Request for Quote). RFPs are typically formal, and time intensive, they should only be issued when you have a clear idea of what you need and you're ready to buy. 

 

If you're not quite sure what you need, do some homework and then consider sending a brief RFI. If you do issue an RFP, keep it short (use rounds if necessary). And ask the "deal breaker" questions upfront, so you can quickly narrow down your options, saving both you and your vendors a whole lot of time. 

Step 2. search for specific examples of your RFP 

Avoid reinventing the wheel writing your RFP, by first doing a quick Google search for "RFP for X service" or "RFP for X software."  

Because not only is seeing some examples always a good idea, but it's surprising what you can find when you search for specific RFPs. During my own Google search, I found this great RFP template list including RFP templates for everything from accounting software, to business intelligence software, to ERP for construction.

Seeing what others included both gives you a great place to start, and can also expose holes in your own search criteria. 

If you're new to writing RFPs and you want a high level overview of how to issue a highly effective one, check out the podcast below. You'll get process practicals and lessons learned the hard way from Procurement Expert Phil Ideson and former Vendor Selection Consultant our own Dave Hulsen.

How to Write a Killer RFP podcast

For example, in my search I also found some incredibly helpful tips specifically related to healthcare IT RFPs (though honestly they probably apply to most RFPs). 

Secure upper management buy-in and funding... Funding for technology often goes beyond the initial purchase. Depending on the model, you may have annual subscription fees after the initial implementation and setup. Or there could be maintenance and upgrade fees you need to consider down the line. Knowing fee structures and all the cost components during the RFP process can be a jumping off point for setting budgets for an organization. 5 Keys to a Successful Healthcare IT RFP  [Bolding added.]

Insider tip: You want to give yourself enough runway from start to finish for an ideal timeline. In my experience, tight timelines often are rarely followed and lead to extended deadlines. Build in time to answer vendor questions and to score the responses themselves. These items are the most likely to delay the project and could put you in a bind. A good rule of thumb for the timeline is to estimate between six to seven months from releasing the RFP to finishing the contracting. - 5 Keys to a Successful Healthcare IT RFP  [Highlight added.]

It is important to remember that the purpose of selecting a vendor and developing a solution is to provide the end users with technical capabilities that solve a business issue. The RFP should focus on these capability requirements.4 Best Practices for a Successful Healthcare IT RFP Process [Bolding added.]

Step 3. make sure you've included the critical factors 

Once you've seen some examples of similar RFPs and gathered the product and/or service-specific-criteria, you're ready to get started writing your RFP.

Additional key criteria to consider: 

  • Clarify your organization's storage standards on-premise vs. cloud storage
  • Identify your security requirements 
  • Read provider case studies (do the testimonials resonate with what you're looking for?) 
  • Research how vendors provide customer service (is it automated, only available during certain hours?) 
  • Look at the vendor's competitors (if it's not clear, feel free to ask them directly) 
  • Read their ratings on websites like Capterra 

Resources: 

Key takeaway: make sure your RFP will actually achieve your objective, consider that there might be a simpler, quicker way (RFQ, RFI, etc.) If you do go with an RFP, do your homework, look at the examples of others, and make sure you've included all the critical criteria. 

We hope you found these tips helpful and that your next IT RFP is a bit easier. Did we miss any great resources? Let us know in the comments.