The RFP process is a lot like Chicago’s winter weather – it’s something everyone deals with but if they had the chance, they’d likely want to change it for something better.
Well, the weather is the weather, but the good news is you can change the RFP process and do it in a way that will help you find a partner best suited to your website development and design needs.
Many companies and organizations approach the RFP-writing process with what could be called an Excel mindset --- they list a lot of things in a request, the answers to which they can then plop into a spreadsheet. Doing that, they believe, will allow them to compare all bidders on an equal footing.
The problem with that approach is, first, it doesn’t really get at what you want for your website, and, second, it doesn’t help you understand how you and your eventual choice will work together to get your project done to your satisfaction.
So before you start your next RFP, take some time to think about and answer some questions that will better equip you to write a more results-oriented request.
Start by bringing together all the website stakeholders in your organization. What’s important to them in the website creation and/or redesign project that you’re creating an RFP for? What do they see as the problems, the pain points, with your current site?
What’s the status of your site today? What isn’t working and why? Is it optimized for mobile users, for example.
What’s the state of your content? Is there too little, too much? An over-abundance of old content can slow a redesign, so build in time for content cleanup as part of your RFP and decide who will do that, someone internal to your organization or the vendor you hire.
A variety of points of view will emerge from your initial round of discussions, work next to boil those down to what your key objectives and goals are for your new or redesigned site. What are you trying to do with this site?
Taking the time and effort to do that will help you speak in a more informed way with potential vendors about what it is you want. It will help you define the scope of work and help you write an RFP that isn’t just an endless wish list that doesn’t really serve your needs.
Many times when Duo Consulting is responding to an RFP, we find there’s a disconnect between what an RFP is asking for and what people in the organization tell us they really want from their site. Having discussions internally before we arrive can equip you to tell us what the vision is for your site and why you’ve decided to make changes to it now.
Another way to use an RFP to really zero in on what you want to accomplish is to specify a budget for the project, or at the very least a budget range, and a timeline. Companies shy away from this out of concern vendors will find ways to bill up to the specified amount and basically overcharge, but reputable vendors will be honest with you about how realistic your budget is given what you want and the time in which you want it all accomplished.
A timeline is important because time is money. If for some reason you need a very fast job that will cost more for additional staffers, overtime, etc. Timeline and budget are linked, so be aware of that in your RFP process.
Once you’ve put an RFP out there and you start receiving responses, take some time to get to know the firms responding, in other words, consider qualitative factors as well as the quantitative ones included in the RFP.
You can find ratings for just about anyone or any firm online these days, start there. And you can talk with references firms give you. But go beyond that to really get to know your potential vendor by speaking directly with them. This often doesn’t happen until later in the contracting process but we believe it should happen during the RFP process.
One topic that will emerge in such discussions will be how involved you and others in your organization will be in the redesign/design process. The level of involvement you expect will impact both cost and timing of the project.
Finally, be realistic about what you will consider a successful redesign. Will you roll out new features as they’re ready or wait for an entire redesign?
Your major take-aways from this:
- Start the RFP planning process with internal discussions with key stakeholders.
- Create a baseline of where your site stands today and what you want to accomplish going forward.
- Don’t get hung up on listing features you want. Think holistically instead, what is the end result you want for your site?
- Include details on spending and a project timeline to get more accurate bids.
Personalize the process by getting to know your bidders.