RFP Weighted Scoring: How to Prep for Success

7/15/16 2:46 PM Anna Duin RFP Issuing

RFP_Weighted_Scoring_-_How_to_Prep_for_Success_.pngLike most things, a truly efficient weighted scoring process requires some planning. The good news is, just a little bit of preparation will make the process infinitely easier. 

The key to easier RFP weighted scoring is to keep it short and sweet. 

How do you make your RFP short and sweet? #1. You determine what type of information you need, and #2. you identify your priorities.

So before you start writing your RFP weighted scoring matrix, here are the questions you need to ask so you can set your team up for success.  


The difference between a RFI and a RFP 

We find most procurement professionals get into scoring problems, when they're not exactly sure what kind of information they want from their vendors.

Which is why the first step to effective scoring is understanding the difference between a Request for Information (RFI) and a Request for Proposal (RFP).   

A RFI is:

  • High-level, general information
  • Usually a first step in the RFx process
  • Typically part of the discovery phase or market analysis
  • Used when purchasers aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for

A RFP is:

  • A deeper dive, asking specific questions
  • Should be sent after you've done some research  
  • Based on detailed criteria
  • Should be used when you’re ready to buy

(More on the difference between RFIs and RFPs here.) 

For example, if you’re just looking to check price and gather information, an RFP may not be the way to go, consider issuing a RFI first.

You can also invite more respondents to your RFI, as you are likely looking at a broad range of candidates with an emphasis on quickly excluding solutions that won't work for you.


Which do you need? 

A simple litmus test is if you want general information, and you want it from several providers, you should probably send a Request for Information first. Then follow up with a RFP if needed.

It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to keep the supplier scorecard simple is to have a short list of invited vendors.

Consider issuing a high-level RFI to a broad range of several candidates with the goal of quickly excluding solutions that won't work for you.

Ask the critical questions which will immediately eliminate unsuitable providers and identify those are eligible for the next round. More on that here.

Once you’ve clarified what you’re looking for and narrowed down your list of viable options, you’re ready to write your targeted RFP.

Establish your scoring criteria 

But before you write any questions, determine your scoring criteria.

Lockton Companies admonishes in this great article that the key to effective RFP scoring is setting parameters before you send the request, and keeping the whole process as simple as possible:

"Weighting questions and answers can be an easy way to really set the vendor responses apart and confirm your critical decision factors, but again, don’t make it too complicated.”

So begin by deciding which factors will directly impact scoring. For example, will be pricing be a contributor? Some argue it shouldn’t. As Ronnie Bushnell, a former Benefits Consultant said:

"Don’t consider price a factor in an RFP scorecard. Decisions should never be based on price alone. Look at pricing after scoring.”

To establish your critical decision factors, start a discussion amongst your internal stakeholders (IT, executives, users, etc.).

Questions to consider:

  • What’s our definition of success?
  • What are our biggest factors in determining success?
  • What are the categories we need to judge solutions against?
  • How important is each category, (functionality 50%, security 20%, speed to implement 20%, etc.)

Their feedback will help you all agree on goals and priorities, allowing you to set a weight for each section, and/or question (thereby completing your supplier scorecard).

We prefer capping our Request for Proposals at about 5 vendors, and asking 20 questions or less.

While it may seem awful concise, it still means each evaluator has to judge and weigh 100 individual responses. Whatever number you choose, just remember that keeping your invited list of vendors minimal and your RFP short, will make your weights and calculations infinitely easier.

Of course, using a system that supports automated scoring can cut down evaluation time even more because you don't have to manually tabulate scoring (Excel matrix, etc.). See what automated scoring looks like.

Once we know what type of information we need and what our priorities are, we’re ready to start setting point values. See a weighted scoring example here.


Key Takeaways

Bottom line, define your priorities and research your options before before you issue a RFP.

Ways to make weighted scoring really easy:

  • Ask fewer, more-targeted questions
  • Clearly define priorities and weight criteria before you send out the RFP
  • Send the RFP to a short-list of vendors


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