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How to kickstart your Request for Proposal (RFP) when you don’t have all the requirements

Writing RFPs

Writing RFPs is a common activity for organizations that work with consultants and solutions providers. A well-written, specific and detailed RFP defines an organization’s needs, shares key information and ensures a competitive and informative process to find the right partner. RFPs are also a great opportunity for firms to put their best effort forward to win new business. You have the process down and it should be a breeze – but this time your stakeholders aren’t giving you the information that you need and you don’t have a clear picture of the requirements. Where do you begin?

Four tips for a great RFP

We’ve outlined four tips to get you going when your stakeholders haven’t provided enough information for you to write your RFP. For an overview of the RFP process - check out this post from Smartsheet.

Tip 1: Reevaluate Who You Are Going to for Answers

If your stakeholders aren’t providing the information you need to write the RFP, ask yourself if someone else can answer questions about the requirements. Internal networking can help you find another person within your organization who may know more about the project. Once you identify additional stakeholders to help define requirements, ask them who, what, when, and why this project is important. This will help you build out user stories (as a ---- user, I need to be able to ----, so that ----). Hearing additional responses to these type of user stories can help give you the groundwork to create a more robust list of features.

After you’ve tapped into your internal network, consider leveraging the expertise of industry trade groups or professional organizations who’ve tackled a similar project. If you have a trusted external advisor, contact them to see if they can provide insight into similar RFPs they have responded to. Ask them about the type of requirements they were asked to detail. Can they provide an example RFP that you can use as a starting point? Did they seek similar types of services? What were some of the lesson they learned from their procurement? This information can be a springboard to expanding your list of requirements.

Tip 2: Provide the Information That You Do Have

Another way to fill in the blanks is to lay out the information you do have. Is there a strategic plan that you can reference or share? Are there brand guidelines or existing research that would be useful to understanding your organizations challenges? Is there a not to exceed budget amount or a range that is already known? A holistic view of the existing user experience and design requirements can help you come up with the details and specifications that vendors can use to tailor their responses.

Think about what you can tell potential vendors and build from there. Start by defining what problem you are trying to solve, which might include:

  • Determining and describing your users and their main goals and tasks
  • Calling out the information of the website that users are unable to find
  • Decentralized decision making about website content, also known as governance
  • Making products and services available and accessible to a diverse group of users

Sometimes writing about what you do know will get you started and the rest will come more easily. Remember, the RFP doesn’t necessarily need to define the how. You’re asking experts with a track record of solving similar challenges what THEY recommend. You can then choose the best match for your needs.

Remember, the RFP doesn’t necessarily need to define the how.”

Tip 3: Forget the Fluff

Don’t wax poetic about requirements that you don’t understand or include unnecessarily rigid response criteria. Be clear and concise. It is ok to let the respondents make inferences based on your given requirements and similar experience they may have. Consider stating that you are open to proposals that include flexible or innovative solutions to problems you have not fully scoped or defined.

If you don’t know where to start or are balking at the complexity, consider scoping a smaller project to build a roadmap and develop requirements, cost estimates, and identify the right stakeholders. Beginning with a roadmap can help you can save time and money in the long run by defining your requirements more clearly. A roadmap can also give you a thoughtful and thorough plan to convince others to fund the budget for your larger initiative.

Tip 4: Reverse Engineer

Are you still stuck without enough information? Try this trick from Software Advice and go to several potential vendors’ websites and look at their services. Use these services as a starting point for your requirements section. Review their case studies – what techniques and services have these vendors used to solve problems? Are there any similarities? Could you use these techniques or services as a part of your requirements?

Finally, take a look at the digital presence of organizations similar to yours. Can you use any information found on their website to help you piece together what you do (or don’t) want to include in your own RFP? This is another great way to get started.

Finalizing Your RFP

These four tips are meant to help you start drafting your RFP. Use them to ignite your creativity when you are feeling stuck and as a springboard for clarifying more about your project, its scope, and requirements. Often having a solid first draft and structure gives stakeholders more to work with and comment on to help you shape your request for proposal towards a final document that’s ready to distribute.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions. Our solutions team offers a free half hour call to discuss your project or challenges. We’re happy to share what we know or to connect you with happy customers of similar organizations who’ve tackled similar projects. They might be willing to share their RFP templates or more about their experience working with Anthro-Tech. To learn more about our perspective take a look at our post on taming complex projects.

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