RFP Design step 1 – The Background

Over the next few weeks I will provide a breakdown on the process to drafting an RFP,  this first blog will cover “Background”, after I have gone through the RFP documentation I will continue through the submissions, up to contract administration.
The Background section puts the whole project in context.  It helps the Tenderers  (parties tendering their proposals) to get a “handle” on what the company does, how it does it and why this RFP was drafted.

Some points normally covered under Background include:

1.    Company – the size of the company, the products/services it provides and how it provides these products services to the market and possibly who its customers are.  It may also be relevant to include whether the company operates from multiple sites.  Think of this as a “marketing spiel”.

2.    Department – which department, Branch, division,  the winning Tenderer will be working with.

3.    Explain what product/service will be required from the Tenderer at a high level – more detail will be given further into the document.

4.    Describe how this process fits in with the overall goal of the company/Department, this can also be considered as the reason the RFP has been drafted.  This will give the Tenderer a reason why THEY are important to the process.

5.    Access to public information also allows the Tenderer to source further information that may help with their proposal.  Providing the company’s URL or others pertaining to your particular industry is an obvious option and gives them an opportunity to provide further information/services that were not requested but just might add value to the arrangement.

6.    Provide information on other aspects you consider important but not critical, for example: by stating that you are an environmentally and humanitarian conscious company may solicit comparative information from the Tenderers.

7.    Other items as you deem appropriate.


RFPs – A structured process

A “Request For Proposal” is the issue of an invitation for suppliers to submit a proposal on specific goods or services. The RFP process brings structure to the procurement decision and allows the risks and benefits to be identified clearly upfront.

Searches on the web will also show a number of opinions that are against the use of RFPs.  It seem that these opinions have come about due to a lack of correct process – RFPs being used in a scatter gun fashion soliciting responses from random suppliers.

RFPs are a structured document and should only be sent to suppliers that are already interested in providing a “proposal” to supply goods or services at an agreed quality, schedule and price.

The major benefit of the RFP (if done properly) is that it ensures all potential suppliers receive exactly the same information to base their costs and performance on, no single supplier or group of suppliers receives preferential treatment – accidental or otherwise.

Plus, if the format of the responses has been specified, comparison of the submissions can made easier, quicker and directly. In fact, if actual historical data (desensitised) has been used throughout, it will not only allow comparison of potential suppliers but also allow current costs to be used as a benchmark.

Even so, it is critical RFPs are accurate, clear and concise.  Shortcuts, errors or omissions will impact on the final selection, exactly as if an RFP had not been used at all – and a wrong decision can be very costly.


Contact me if you’d like to know more.