Request for Proposal: A Guide to Effective RFP Development, 1st edition

  • Bud Porter-Roth

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Praise for Request for Proposal

“Bud Porter-Roth is an expert in the field of preparing RFPs, and we could not have successfully completed our project without his skill and knowledge. This book is a clear guide to an otherwise complex and difficult process. If you can’t hire Bud Porter-Roth to write your RFP, then you should buy this book.”

         —Lori Deibel, Manager, Library Services

“This book is priceless. It is a must for a novice writing an RFP.”

         —Doris Lopez, Senior Systems Engineer, O-Cedar Brands, Inc.

“This book brings a structure to a process that is too often unstructured. There have been no standards (outside of government) that I know of that apply to RFP preparation. I also believe that vendors (sellers) would welcome a more uniform and consistent style of RFP.”

         —Frank Tillman, API Systems Group

“This book provides overall coverage on a subject that deserves some real guidance. I like very much the sentiment concerning the RFP as the basis for a team and the idea that the RFP is the beginning, not the end. His emphasis on the need for clarity in the RFP and for measurable requirements needs to be heard and understood by many within the target audience. He takes an excellent position on ‘Why Write an RFP’.”

         —Patricia Oberndorf, SEI

“This book is well written and insightful. It provides good information on what makes a good requirement, how proposals are evaluated, and what precautions to take to prevent early elimination.”

         —Linda Fernandez

“Just a note to tell you thank you for providing some tips on how to structure an RFP. I work for a small company who does not have a specific template for this purpose and found your guidance a very useful starting point.”

         —Dan Salo

Despite its importance as an initial step in the development of major technical projects, the Request for Proposal (RFP) process rarely receives the professional attention it deserves. Used by government agencies and by private corporations to solicit proposals from contractors and vendors, the RFP document is the foundation for a successful project. A clearly written and properly organized RFP clarifies technical goals, communicates administrative and financial expectations, and sets the tone for good communication and a trusting and productive relationship between customer and contractor.

This experience-based handbook offers a systematic, comprehensive, and professional approach to writing RFPs. It guides you step-by-step—from initial planning to selecting the winning proposal—through the RFP process, demonstrating the most effective ways of structuring the document and expressing technical, administrative, and financial requirements. Request for Proposal: A Guide to Effective RFP Development focuses on the major goals of the RFP process—to elicit high-quality responses from potential contractors and promote effective communication between the client and the chosen vendor.

You will be able to:

  • Plan and organize the RFP effort
  • Outline each RFP section
  • Develop, write, and review all requirements, including those that are administrative, technical, and managerial
  • Set realistic pricing requirements
  • Pre-screen a vendor list to select appropriate vendors
  • Set up objective evaluation criteria for selecting the best solution
  • Prepare for post-RFP activities such as site visits, reference checks, and implementation activities

    In addition, this book includes several templates you can adapt for your own organization’s RFP efforts. Request for Proposal gives numerous examples of both effective and poorly-written RFP requirements that illustrate the author’s points and provide solid advice to help you avoid common pitfalls and implement best practices.

    For anyone with the responsibility of writing RFPs or responding to them, this book is are source you will want to keep close at hand.

  • Table of contents

    1. Introduction to Writing RFPs.


    What is Presented in this RFP Book?

    Different Types of RFPs.

    Request for Information (RFI).

    Request for Proposal (RFP).

    Why Write an RFP?

    RFP Development and Preparation.

    RFP Project Development.

    Evaluation Criteria.

    Reviewing the RFP.

    Anatomy of an RFP.

    Project Overview and Administrative Information.

    Technical Requirements.

    Management Requirements.

    Supplier Qualifications and References.

    Suppliers' Section.

    Pricing Section.

    Contracts and License Agreements Section.


    RFP Activities.

    Pre­RFP Activities.

    Identifying Suppliers.

    Qualifying Suppliers.

    RFP Activities.

    Post­RFP Activities.

    The Importance of the RFP from a Contract Perspective.


    2. RFP Planning and Preparation.


    Pre­RFP Planning Considerations.

    Project Organization.

    Project Organization.

    Project Schedule.

    Technology and Supplier Education.

    Budget Development.

    The Project Acquisition Budget.

    Post-RFP Planning Considerations.

    Project Development and Implementation.

    Additional Post-RFP Activities.


    3. RFP Administration Requirements Section Introduction.

    How to use this Chapter.

    Anatomy of an Administration Section.

    RFP Overview.

    Supplier and Supplier Reference Information.

    Company Confidential Information.

    Intent to Bid.

    Proprietary Information Notice.

    Supplier Confidential Information.


    RFP Contacts.

    RFP Questions and Answers.

    Responding to Supplier Questions.

    RFP Reference Library.

    RFP Schedule.

    Pre­Proposal Conference.

    Proposal Format Requirements.

    The Cover Letter or Transmittal Letter.

    The Executive Summary Required in Proposals.

    Pricing Section (Cost Section).

    Best and Final Offers.

    Alternate Proposals.

    Compliance Matrix.

    Informational Paragraphs in the Administrative Section.

    Definition of Requirements.

    Production Environment for Hardware and Software Products.

    Errors or Omissions in Proposals.

    Proposal Evaluation Criteria.

    Proposal Costs and Expenses.

    Product Demonstrations.

    Notifying Winning and Losing Suppliers.

    Proposal Debriefing.

    What Should Not Appear in the Administrative Section.


    4. RFP Technical Requirements Section.


    Writing Requirements for the Technical Section.

    Definition of a Requirement.

    Who Writes Requirements?

    How Do Suppliers Recognize Requirements in Your RFP?

    What Is the Difference between Specifications and Requirements?

    Requirements can Be Written as Questions, Statements, or Narrative Description.

    Qualities of Well Written Requirements.

    Requirements Must Reflect Real Products or Solutions.

    Requirements Must Be Unambiguous.

    Requirements Must Not Use Subjective Terms.

    Requirements Must Be Measurable.

    Requirements Must Be Meaningful.

    Requirements Must Be Complete.

    Requirements Must Not Include the Solution.

    Requirements Must Not Include Unnecessary Characteristics.

    Developing Technical Requirements.

    Illustrating Requirements.

    Anatomy of a Technical Section.

    Current Business Environment.

    Current Technical Environment.

    Proposed Technical Environment.

    A Note on Hardware Requirements.

    A Note on System Software Requirements.

    Application Requirements.


    Suggested Readings.

    5. Management Requirements Section.


    Writing Requirements for the Management Section.

    Examples of Poorly Written Requirements.

    Anatomy of a Management Section.

    Project Plan.

    Project Schedule.

    Site Preparation Plan and Personnel Responsibilities.

    Project Staffing Requirements.

    Roles and Responsibilities.

    Design, Development, and Implementation.

    Project Change Control.

    Delivery and Installation.


    System Maintenance and Support.




    Project Cutover.

    Supplier Issues and Concerns.


    6. Pricing.


    Anatomy of a Pricing Section.



    System Software.

    Application Software.

    Custom Software Development.


    Project Implementation and Management Services.

    Maintenance and Support.



    Other Costs Not Specifically Requested.

    Organizing the Price Section.

    Validating Prices.

    Other Pricing Notes.

    Contracts and License Agreements Section.

    Fixed Price Contract.

    Time and Materials (T&M).

    Associated Contract Considerations.

    Evaluation of Price Proposals.


    7. Evaluation Guidelines.


    The Evaluation Team.

    Evaluation Considerations.

    Evaluation Criteria in the RFP.

    Getting Started Evaluating Proposals.

    Requests for Clarification.

    Other Considerations for the Evaluation Team.

    Anatomy of an Evaluation Section.

    Technical Evaluation.

    Management Evaluation.

    Price Evaluation.

    Oral Presentations and Demonstrations.

    The Evaluation Process.


    Preliminary Evaluation.

    Second Round of Evaluations.

    Detailed Evaluations.

    The Shortlist.

    Developing the Scoring Methodology.

    Evaluation Report.


    Appendix A. Administrative Information.

    Appendix B. Supplier Information.

    Appendix C. Proposal Preparation Instructions.

    Appendix D. Budget Planning and Investment Analysis.

    Appendix E. Nondisclosure Agreement.

    Appendix F. Proprietary Notice.

    Appendix G. Notice of Intent to Bid.

    Appendix H. Questions and Answers.

    Appendix I. Compliance Matrix.

    Appendix J. Preliminary Evaluation Checklist.

    Appendix K. RFP Reverse Planning Calendar. 0201775751T12102001

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    Published by Addison-Wesley Professional (December 21st 2001) - Copyright © 2002