A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a very common method of selecting suppliers for components, services or capabilities. From a human thinking perspective, an RFP is ALWAYS just a data-gathering tool for informing a decision or set of tightly-coupled decisions. The supplier who responds to an RFP is proposing themselves (or their products, services or capabilities) as one alternative in a “Choose Supplier for X” decision.
Most RFPs are structured as writing, not thinking tasks. This leads to horrendous inefficiencies in the proposal process and often hides under mountains of salesmanship the rather simple data needed to make a good decision.
Not surprisingly, I recommend a Decision Driven® approach to RFPs and proposals. The requester is trying to make an important decision. Before they write the RFP document, they should do themselves the favor of explicitly framing out the decision(s) for which they are seeking alternatives. To do this:
- Give the decision a name/title and describe its scope to define its boundaries.
- Explicitly define the 10, 15 or 20 criteria/factors that will be used to evaluate and select the winning alternative. Even better, use the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF) which provides the criteria for many typical supplier decisions.
- For each factor, explicitly define your Threshold (Must limit or walkaway point at which you will reject an alternative) and your Objective value (stretch goal or Ideal value).
Then structure your RFP and the proposal outline to get that data without a lot of overhead and fluff.
I recommend that you have your potential suppliers “self-score” their capabilities against your criteria. If you give them your criteria with Thresholds and Objectives, they can place themselves somewhere along the number line between those two points, describe why they think they offer great, average, poor or no margin against that factor and then give you supporting information to back up their assertion. You can then assess the believability of their self-scoring one factor at a time and make your own scoring judgments. Of course, the supplier may exaggerate their capabilities a bit, but at least their exaggerations are focused on the factors that you need to evaluate and organized so that you can address one factor at a time.
This RFP approach will produce much briefer, ready-to-score proposals and save time for both the requester and respondent. It also lays a good foundation for a transparent, collaborative working relationship going forward.
Eliminate the inefficiencies in your RFP process by using the Decision Driven® approach and capabilities of the Decision Driven® Solutions Framework (DDSF). Get started with your free trial of DDSF by contacting the Decision Driven® Solutions team at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.