Things like RFP scoring, and really anything involving the word percentage, tends to make me hyperventilate. So when you throw the words "weighted scoring" at me I immediately panic. Luckily, we've found some tips for making RFP weighted scoring so simple even I can do it (and believe me that's saying something).
In Part I, we covered a simple explanation of what RFP weighted scoring is, and why it's worth the work (because it makes for a less subjective selection process). Read it here.
Now let's get down to brass tacks -- how to make your weighted scoring as painless as possible. Here's what you need to know before you send the RFP, how to cut down evaluation time, and a simple scoring checklist.
Step 1. Decide if you need an RFP or an RFI
We find people mostly get into scoring problems when they're not exactly sure what kind of information they want from vendors. Which is why the first step to efficient scoring is understanding the difference between a Request for Information (RFI) and a Request for Proposal (RFP).
An RFI is:
- High-level, general information
- Usually the first step in the RFP process
- Used when purchasers aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for
An RFP is:
- Full of specific questions
- Based on detailed criteria
- Should be used when you’re ready to buy
(More on the difference between RFIs and RFPs here).
Which do you need?
A simple litmus test is if you want general information, and you want it from more than, say, 10 vendors, you should probably send a Request for Information first.
Issue 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.
Once you’ve clarified what you’re looking for and have your list of viable options, you’re ready to write your targeted RFP. 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.”
To establish said decision factors, start a discussion amongst your internal stakeholders (IT, executives, users, etc.)
Set your team up for success by asking questions like:
- 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.)
- Should pricing be a weighted factor? (Some experts argue it shouldn’t.)
Their feedback will help you all agree on goals and priorities. Allowing you to set a weight for each section, and/or question (completing your supplier scorecard).
Pro Tip: focus on closed questions instead of open-ended, they’re much easier to rate.
See more detailed instructions on setting point values here, and helpful information on rating requirements importance here. Remember, your end goal is to identify what you’re scoring and how you’re judging it.
Step 2. Incorporate technology
Everyone agrees raw data is no good if you can’t effectively interpret it, and RFPs are no different. So if you want to make things really easy, think about trying a system that supports automated scoring.
Learn more about our vendor management software here.
While paying for specialized RFP software may be a new thought, the big advantage is you don’t have to compile manual spreadsheets (no matrices, macros, complex formulas, or miscalculations).
And the built-in algorithms make it easy to score individual questions (not just sections) meaning a more indicative overall score. Giving you a shorter evaluation time, less human error, and clearer vendor comparisons.
Step 3. Make it short & sweet
It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to keep the vendor scorecard simple is to have a short list of invited vendors. 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.
And if you’re still feeling nervous about trying weighted scoring:
- Find out what weighted scoring is and if it's worthwhile
- Get details on rating requirements for importance
As much as I hate math of any kind, I do agree with our Co-Founder (who happens to be a former Statistics Professor) Dave Hulsen that weighted scoring is worth the extra effort because it forces everyone to focus on the facts:
“If you're going to be subjective, save everyone's time and skip the RFP.”
[Editor's note: this post was originally published 3/10/16 and has been updated for clarity and relevancy.]