The purpose of issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) is to identify the best supplier at the best price for a specific commodity or service; in this case, workforce management services. You want to have all of your ducks in a row, yet, many RFP processes are so overly complex and counterintuitive they end up costing the buyer time and, potentially, the best supplier for the job.
The RFP concept took what is a complex bidding process and created order through standardization. When a need is identified within an organization, procurement will typically issue a standard RFP to a number of select suppliers. From there, suppliers are vetted by their responses and the “best in show” is awarded the contract.
Simple right? Not if you’ve ever sat in on the process. A common oversight is there isn’t enough emphasis placed on the type of information each organization needs to effectively compare prospects, or vendors. As a result, both the vendors and the buyers spend countless hours sifting through redundant or irrelevant questions that ultimately bare no weight on the final decision. So, why is it that for such a necessary and detailed procedure, so many organizations continue to go through the same outdated and drawn-out motions?
What to Ask in Your RFP to Gain the Best Results
Let’s face it. This is one of those operations that, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The RFP process takes up a significant amount of the buyer’s time and resources. For that reason, it is often left as status quo, but wouldn’t that mean buyers should make it as efficient and effective as possible?
The following key points should help guide your organization in developing the best information gathering RFP. The concepts outlined in each step can apply to RFPs for many types of workforce management services.
Keep it Relevant
After you’ve identified the need within your organization, you’ll want to determine the best way to gather internal data that should be shared with vendors, so they can respond appropriately. Start by addressing not only the current problem at hand, but any other concerns and challenges faced by your organization, as well as details about your requirements.
Next, ask yourself what questions are most critical in helping identify the best vendor for your needs.
Consider the following to assess the relevancy of each RFP question:.
- Will the question truly help us qualify suppliers?
- Will the question capture information that we need to know to make an informed decision?
- Is the question easy to understand and respond to? Or, will it be interpreted differently by each vendor, and, therefore, we won’t be able to compare apples to apples when reviewing responses?
- Does the question contain multiple, drawn out questions clumped together, and if so, can we streamline the wording or break up into several questions?
- Is the question similar to any other question or a duplicate?
RFPs are also useful for gathering comparative pricing. So, identify the type of pricing required (management fee, bill rate, mark-up, cost per hire, etc.) dependent on the RFP’s focus, and provide clear instructions (e.g., state exactly what the pricing should encompass) to ensure consistency in suppliers’ responses. Formulate pricing questions or an easy to use response format (excel spreadsheet, simple table, etc.) that will capture the necessary pricing, while facilitating the review and grading process.
PRO TIP: It is important to do pricing legwork up front, so that pricing collected from suppliers is comparable and consistent.
Format & Proceed with Care
Organize the final RFP questions sensibly by major subject area, or sections defined by headings. Conduct a spell check. A well-formatted document is easier for you to score and suppliers to use. Template design errors can lead to reissuing a corrected RFP two, three or even four times, a costly and timely process.
Also, determine if you need detailed, narrative responses, or will simpler answers suffice? If shorter answers are preferred, then an excel RFP template is the way to go. But, if your looking for more thoughtful, customized responses or graphics, then providing questions and gathering responses in a word document makes most sense.
If you need help compiling your questions or prefer to use a standard RFP template, one option is to use third-party RFP software available through a wide variety of consulting firms to help standardize your template; making sure the technology is configured to your specific data capture requirements and tailored specifically to workforce management services (attention to detail is key). Stay away from consultants that do not focus on workforce management services and/or are not knowledgeable about creating a pertinent RFP process and well-worded RFP questions that are relevant to this service.
Other resources to obtain a relevant RFP template that you can use as a starting point are Staffing Industry Analysts, or Yoh. We can also provide consulting services to help you get started with the RFP process, if needed.
Do the necessary research to identify the best and most relevant suppliers to include in the RFP process. Compile a list of your current, well-performing suppliers (if applicable), and/or identify additional suppliers that have the capabilities to meet your needs. Lists provided by Staffing Industry Analysts, or other trade organizations and publications (such as HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen Lists) can serve as a starting point.
Know What’s Important
There is a vast difference between purchasing pencils and workforce management services, with the former typically focused on price and quantitative data, while the latter should focus on needed capabilities and cultural alignment. A detailed, well-structured RFP process will help you identify the best workforce management supplier(s) through qualitative differentiators, so that your final decision can be based on tangible nuances, and not solely on cost.