10 Ways to Improve Your Higher Ed RFP For Bidders

Before you grab an old template and begin the arduous process of creating an RFP for the redesign of your college or university website, here are some things to consider that will smooth the process and drive higher quality responses.

1. Phased Approach.  Consider breaking up the project into 2 or 3 smaller projects (Strategy, Design, and 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

  • evaluate the skills and relationship with your vendor,
  • really collaborate with your vendor to define features and functionality within specified budget targets,
  • have a "blueprint" for design and development that you can "shop" to other vendors if necessary and
  • receive firm, fixed bids for the remaining phases from your vendor. 

2. Response Deadline.  Give a realistic turnaround time for responding to the RFP.  4-6 weeks is fair. 

3. Your Organization.  Share specifics about organizational dynamics at your college or university.

4. Timeline. 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. RFP Delivery/Submission.  Be flexible with methods for bidders to submit 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. Finalist Presentations.  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. Goals & Deliverables.  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. Q&A. 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, particularly after the first “cut”.

9. Budget.  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 knowing your budget allows us to validate that your budget matches the work requirements and/or allocate our services to get the most for your investment.

10. Other.  Include information about branding efforts and marketing initiatives that may impact the project.