February 5, 2008

RFP - Much More Than A Request!

Here are my requirements
RFP - Much More Than A Request!
RFP or Request For Proposal is usually one of the first real dialogues between a client and a vendor. This interaction is crucial because the success and failure of the engagement starts to be cemented at this early stage. Consider the following items that a RFP can start to clarify -

Requirements Definition
The viability and success of any contract is directly contingent on the understanding between the involved parties. The clearer the expectations about the scope of the work, the deliverables, payment schedule, milestones and organization - the better the chances for success. And the details start with the RFP. A good RFP should set the tone of the engagement by
  • Providing the vendors with ample visibility into the current state of the project or team
  • Clearly articulating the problem definition
  • Identifying quantifiable and objective requirements (a good and user-friendly system is not a good requirement)
  • Detailing constraints (resources and culture), key milestones, organizational concerns and workplace nuances that can impact project delivery.

Engagement Model
An engagement model defines the rules of the game. What will I do, what will you do, how will we interact, how will we work together, how will issues be raised and resolved, how will status be reported, what metrics will be tracked and more. The RFP is the perfect place to start this definition. By the time the contract is signed there should be acute clarity around the "how" of the engagement.

Performance Measurement
Most service engagements have (or should have) clear expectations around performance measures. What are your expectations in terms of delivery dates, resource commitments, deliverable quality, compliance requirements and overall execution quality. If the vendor fails to meet these expectations - what are the repercussions? Performance requirements set the stage for risks, rewards and financial penalties associated with the engagement.

Vendor Assessment
The RFP is the starting point to access what vendors exist in the space you are seeking assistance. Vendor qualification seeks to understand the vendor's background, domain expertise, financial stability, process maturity and management strength. Any engagement with an external party should start by understanding who you are willing to conduct business with and what do they bring to the table.

If you are serious about partnering with a vendor and expect quality deliverables from this engagement - your path to success starts with a well-structured and detailed Request For Proposal.

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