Is RFP Weighted Scoring Worth the Work?

12/29/17 3:38 PM Anna Duin RFP Issuing


I’m really smart, I swear. But I still had a breakdown during my college stats final. I sat at my desk, staring at all the numbers and percentages... and started to hyperventilate -- I actually had to be sent to the hallway to finish my test. So you can imagine how I felt when I was asked to do my first weighted-scoring-RFP. 

And because I'd promised myself I’d never (again) cry over the spilled milk of miscalculated percentages, I decided to figure out how to make weighted scoring as easy as possible. Below is Part I, covering a simple explanation of what RFP weighted scoring is, and whether or not it's really worth all the work.

(If you're ready to use weighted scoring skip ahead to Part II, covering the practicals.) 

What is RFP weighted scoring? 

Simply put, weighted scoring means using a defined scale to measure the value of an RFP response.

Essentially, you determine the "weight,” or importance of each question and/or section as a way to compare how vendors deliver on your priorities. (Turning qualitative text-based answers into quantitative supplier scorecard rankings).

Weighted scoring is:

  • A scale for measuring the value of an RFP response
  • A rubric for grading proposals
  • A points systems that can be used for whole sections and/or individual questions
  • A way to avoid subjective (“I like them”) RFP scoring

While you may not be making an actual vendor scorecard as you evaluate each response, you probably are using a loose/variation of this point value system already. For example, you may tell bidders that 20% of your choice is based on approach, 35% is based technical requirements, etc.

Scoring based on these types of broad categories is definitely appealing. It’s fast. It’s easy. But there's one big flaw - it's more vague. And because it's highly subjective, it's a very risky way to make selections.

Important considerations for any purchaser:

  • What you want to score in your RFP responses (priorities)
  • How you’re going to score them (type of scale, weight, etc.)
  • Who is going to do the scoring (resources)

Why do we need to know the answers to these questions? Because Request for Proposals are useless if you don’t know how to judge the responses once you get them. 

Why use RFP weighted scoring?

So is weighted scoring really all it's cracked up to be? Yes. Here's why:

7 reasons weighted scoring is worth the work:

  1. It is less subjective, because it focuses on the facts
  2. Forces your team to identify and agree on priorities
  3. Makes your best fit more obvious
  4. Helps you identify relative strengths and weaknesses
  5. Makes comparing & contrasting options easy 
  6. Provides selection justification
  7. Supports confident decision-making

Bottom line, by tying scoring to specific questions, you can compare apple-to-apples, which is the true value of the RFP process.

Ready to give it a shot? Read Part II, covering the practicals of weighted scoring. Including how to set point values, evaluation criteria examples, and RFP software tools that can help automate the process. 


[Editor's note: this post was originally published 3/10/16 and has been updated for clarity and relevancy.]