How to Issue an RFP for IT Consultants
Trying to find the right information technology (IT) consultant can be extremely stressful. For most of us, IT is complicated and overwhelming. (That’s why we need a consultant in the first place.)
So, how can you create a request for proposal (RFP) that identifies the right IT consultant for your organization?
3 easy steps to help you choose your next IT consultant.
1. Understand when an RFP is the right choice.
CDRI consulting team wrote a great piece on How to Write a Request for Proposals for Leadership Consulting Services, in which they offer advice for deciding when an RFP is helpful and appropriate for finding your next consultant … and when it’s more work than it’s worth:
First, when not to write an RFP: If you are already leaning strongly to hiring a specific consulting firm, please don’t issue an RFP. Just ask that consultant to write a proposal and, if it’s what you wanted, figure out how to hire them directly. Please don’t ask other consultants to invest the time to write proposals for which there isn’t an even chance of success.
Second, if it’s a choice between a handful of known consultants, call them (or meet with them one-on-one), discuss the project, and ask them to send a proposal. Writing an RFP takes time and you don’t need to spend it if you really are planning to pick between a few known consultants. Instead, just call and tell them what you are looking for and ask them to put together a proposal. They will ask you all the clarifying questions necessary to put together a good proposal that will meet your needs (if they don’t, they aren’t who you want to hire anyway). Then, either pick from the best proposal or interview the leading candidates further.
In other words, process for the sake of process just wastes your time and the consultants’ time. If you’re just looking at a couple of options, a full-out RFP probably isn’t necessary. A quick phone call or a few informal questions will likely serve you better.
2. Make it easy for them to respond
If you decide an RFP is the way to go, your next consideration should be the reader’s experience
Below is an example of how a poorly constructed RFP process looks through the eyes of a vendor.
- A company decides it needs a new vendor, so several employees sit down and think of all the things they do and don’t want and then dream up a bunch of hoops for would-be vendors to jump through.
- They send the RFP to every potential vendor they can think of.
- Prospective vendors practically do backflips trying to meet all the RFP requirements and end up rushing to meet the deadline.
- The company that issued the RFP then examines all the proposals that were submitted and compares them. Ultimately, they decide that some of the proposals are basically offering the same products/services, so they choose the lowest-priced bid.
- And it can get even worse. The finalists are sometimes pitted against each other in a bidding war to see who is willing to discount their price to the lowest number. It’s a race to the bottom.
- The “winner” ends up doing a lot of work for too little money.
Obviously this writer has had bad experiences with complicated, generic RFPs that were irrelevant and time-consuming.
Negative RFP experiences like those outlined above can convince consultants you’re not worth their time, leaving you with bottom-of-the-barrel options.
Make sure your RFP uses simple language, is tailored to the project, and is easy to respond to.
3. Focus on the desired results, not the method
CDRI consulting said it well:
If you write an RFP, in the scope of work description, focus on the result you want, not the micro steps you expect it will require.
The best RFPs refrain from outlining the exact scope of work and focus instead on the result or impact desired. For example, don’t try to write the survey questions you want asked or specify the number of meetings or step-by-step schedule you require to be held for planning. Outline, instead, the decisions that need to be made as a result of the work and explain what it is that you don’t know that you would like to find out or become skilled in…
Good consultants are experts in a range of tools and approaches and you want to put them to work in the proposal recommending an approach that best fits. – Source
Simply put, it’s easy to get locked in on the tool or the method you prefer, but one of the big advantages of hiring a consultant is their fresh perspective. Make sure you stay open to suggestions during the RFP process.
How we can help
RFP360 makes it easy to create and issue RFPs and evaluate responses.
“RFP360 helps us automate and focus on core business,” said Mark Rieder, SVP of HR Technologies and Benefits Administration at NFP. “We love the automated scoring. We’re shortlisting faster, and we’re being a true partner to our vendors. It’s a win-win.”
Request a demonstration to learn how RFP360 can streamline the RFP process at your organization.