How to Evaluate Responses to a Project Request for Proposal

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Image of line graph with pencils signifying the results of the rfp process.

Project "RFPs" (Request for Proposals) are most effectively prepared using pre-defined standards that provide content guidelines, along with established viability criteria to facilitate evaluation and promote informed decision making.  That's the simplest way to get things done and to meet all defined objectives.  The key is consistency and built-in flexibility.  Read on for more.

To achieve all the intended benefits, RFP standards must extend beyond the planning and production steps to the types of guidelines and criteria to be used to evaluate the responses received. RFP preparation is only half the battle – to define requirements and solicit related proposals. To reach required goals, you must also be prepared to properly and fairly evaluate the responses received. And you can’t afford to wing it once submissions start rolling in.

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High Quality RFPs = High Quality Responses

In order to receive the highest quality responses, every RFP should be standardized to incorporate the following five (5) content components:

  1. The RFP Should Make Introductions. The RFP should provide basic introductions to the bidder concerning the company (who is requesting the bid) and proposal scope.
  2. The RFP Should Present the Need. The RFP should provide a brief project overview, stating the business case for the project and the need to be filled.
  3. The RFP Should State Requirements. The RFP should state the service and technical requirements and specifications upon which the proposed solution must be based. Every requirements statement should include a "definitions" section to ensure that all parties share a common understanding of all business and technical needs.
  4. The RFP Should Set Terms and Conditions. The RFP should state the expected terms and conditions for solutions acceptance, including delivery requirements, payment terms, and regulatory requirements.
  5. The RFP Should Set Expectations. The RFP should describe the overall RFP bidding process, including response submission requirements, "winning" evaluation and selection criteria, process deadlines, and related technical procedures (response format, submission mechanisms and how to submit questions and feedback).

RFP Content Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria

Once RFP responses are received, each response must be reviewed and evaluated to determine the selected proposal. Using a pre-defined "scoring system", each element of the RFP can then be ranked according to the "degree" to which requirements and priorities are met. To meet these goals, RFP evaluation standards are organized into three (3) actionable components: criteria, degree and priority.

Start with Pre-Defined RFP Evaluation Criteria

  • Physical Requirements: To what degree does this proposal meet stated physical solution requirements (for hardware and/or software)?
  • Service Requirements: To what degree does this proposal meet stated service requirements?
  • Pricing: How does the proposed price compare to the (a) planned budget and to (b) other proposals?
  • Delivery & Installation: To what degree does this proposal meet stated delivery and/or installation requirements?
  • Warranties: To what degree does the proposal meet stated warranty requirements?
  • Terms & Conditions: To what degree does the proposal meet stated contractual terms and conditions?
  • Skills & Abilities: Does the bidder have the necessary skills and abilities to deliver this proposal?
  • References: Does the bidder have a proven track record in this type of project?
  • Intangibles:What other factors can be used to evaluate RFP responses and select the appropriate winner?

Move on to Response Evaluation Scoring

How will RFP's be evaluated? Using a standardized scoring system, "points"can be assigned to each criteria component according to the degree (extent) to which the proposed solution meets stated requirements. This is illustrated below:

  • 5 points: Fully Meets
  • 4 points: Meets, with minor gaps (no compromise required)
  • 3 points: Meets, with moderate gaps (some compromise required)
  • 2 points: Partially meets (significant gaps, compromise required)
  • 1 point: Does not meet

Make Your Evaluation Priority Rankings

The third element of the scoring system is the "priority ranking". In the course of the RFP process, bidders will be asked to respond to multiple requirements. The degree to which each requirement can be met will vary, even within a single proposal. On the other hand, since some requirements will carry more weight than others, wiggle room may exist. Priority rankings will help you to put requirements in perspective, helping you to identify the points at which compromise is possible. For example... You have received several RFP responses and you have identified the solution that best meets your technical requirements. However, this vendor is unable to meet your delivery and installation timeframe. Can you compromise? Priority rankings can help you figure it out, as illustrated below:

  • High Priority: No Compromise Allowed
  • Moderate Priority:Moderate Compromise Allowed
  • Low Priority:Minimal Compromise Allowed

Also See:

Planning to Prepare the Project Request for Proposal (RFP)

The Request for Proposal (RFP) is an important "project procurement deliverable", used to solicit competitive bids prior to the purchase of project related goods and services.   You don't always need an RFP to make those purchases, but when you do, you need a good one.  go to RFP or see all the related article links below.


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