10 Ways to Improve your Higher Ed RFP for Bidders

Most Higher Education institutions send out an RFP to get solid proposals from vendors that have been well-thought out.  The following are some tips to improve the quality of response.

1.  Consider breaking up the project into 2 or 3 smaller projects (Strategy, Design, Development).  Request a fixed bid quote for the Strategy Phase with a range quote for the Design and Development Phases.  List specific deliverables for the Strategy Phase.  This approach allows you to (1) evaluate the skills and relationship with your vendor, (2) really collaborate with your vendor to define features and functionality within specified budget targets, (3) have a "blueprint" for design and development that you can "shop" to other vendors if you find it necessary and (4) recieve a firm, fixed bids for the remaining phases from your vendor.  

2.  Give a realistic turnaround time for responding to the RFP.  4-6 weeks is fair. 
3.  Share specifics about organizational dynamics at your college or university.

4.  Have an attainable project delivery timeline.

    • Project Kickoff:  4-6 weeks from notifying vendor.
    • Strategy Phase:  6-8 weeks
    • Design Phase:  6-8 weeks
    • Development Phase:  12-16 weeks
    • Testing:  2-4 weeks
    • Training/Launch/Other:  1-2 weeks
    • Total Project:  26-44 weeks

5.  Be flexible with methods for bidders to deliver their proposals (e.g. email vs. postal delivery).  In today’s high-tech world, DO NOT request your prospective partner to make multiple hardcopies and send them via slow-mail overnight (or worse, fax).  Request a well-organized response in one or multiple PDF files to be delivered electronically on, or before, a certain day and time.

6.  Provide 2-3 weeks advance notice for on-site presentations by finalists, being considerate of travel costs.  We believe on-site presentations are the best way to truly evaluate representatives from the bidding firm and get an initial "feel" for the relationship.  It provides a better forum for questions and answers.  For Beacon, we believe this is one of the most important steps in the process and therefore, always plan to meet in-person.  
7.  Give careful thought to the project goals and deliverables.  The clearer these are, the better, and more consistent, the vendor responses will be.  Consider creating a requirements matrix (with sections for Strategy, Design, Development, Testing & Launch) so vendors can easily respond in line to your needs.
8.  Early in the process, offer question and answer session(s) or provide the opportunity for vendors to submit questions.  Some vendors may be reluctant to ask questions that will be seen by the "community of bidders" because doing so, may reveal tactics, ideas and processes that provide a competitive edge.  We have found that one-on-one Q&A sessions work well.
9.  State your budget, or at least a range.  Just as cost drives your decision, it also drives the decision for vendors on whether to invest time in preparing a response.  Revealing your budget doesn't mean that all your vendors will submit a bid with your maximum budget on it.  Beacon always quotes the work based on the scope (not your budget), but we just want to know that your budget matches the work requirements and maximize the value of our services.
10.  Include information about branding efforts or other initiatives that may impact the project.
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