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How to Write an Effective RFP

An RFP should contain the following sections and should be thoughtfully written by an employee that will actually be using the system regularly

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL

Purchasing a new HRIS can be a monumental task that can cost a company a lot of money, both up front and over time. If the wrong system is purchased and it doesn’t end up fitting the company’s needs, it can be a major setback. Clearly defining requirements in the form of an RFP can help to ensure that the right software is obtained, but the RFP must be comprehensive and effective.

An RFP should contain the following sections and should be thoughtfully written by an employee that will actually be using the system regularly and understands what the company needs the HRIS to do.

What is an RFP?

An RFP, or request for proposal, is a document that both announces and contains the details of a project. It’s designed to solicit bids from vendors or contractors that are interested in completing that project. The company can evaluate all of the bids for the RFP and select the vendor that best meets their needs and criteria.

What is the RFP Process?

The RFP process involves the company putting out an RFP. Vendors then submit bids based on the criteria written in the RFP. During the RFP process, bidders can review the RFP and make suggestions for improvements. The company may have changes to make to the RFP based on that feedback. Then, the final request for proposal is submitted and vendors make bids on the project. The company can then choose a vendor and draft a contract for the project.

How to Write an RFP

Before you write your RFP, it’s important to know exactly how to write a request for proposal. RFP writing will differ depending on the project, but there are certain core characteristics that all RFPs will share.

Define Your Project and Your Company’s Needs

Before you even start your RFP, write down the details of your project and exactly what your company needs out of it. Defining this ahead of time will help make the RFP writing process a lot easier. Make notes about what you require from the vendor. Decide when the project needs to be completed and if you have a budget.

Write everything down in an outline. You can refer to the outline later when you’re actually writing the RFP.

Write an Introduction

The introduction should be a basic summation that makes the case for why the business needs a HRIS at the present time. The introduction should briefly detail what goals your company hopes to achieve by implementing a HRIS. Important details from the body of the RFP can be touched on here, such as when you hope to begin the project and what date you need the vendor to respond by.

Explain the History of Your Company and the Project

This section should introduce the vendors to the company and the project. Things like core values, target customer base, office locations, and staff numbers should be outlined in this section. There should also be a basic explanation of what led to the need for a new HRIS.

Describe the Requirements of Your Project

The requirements section should give a precise explanation of what you want the vendor to do and what you need the HRIS to do. Included in each requirement should be the priority level of that requirement and the reason that you need that particular function on the HRIS or information from the vendor. This is the most important section of the RFP, so adequate time and attention should be put into drawing up this section.

Explain How You Would Like Vendors to Respond

It is helpful to both you and the vendor if you give an explanation of how you would like the response structured.

A typical response format may include:

  • A summary of the proposal
  • Vendor background information
  • Explanation of how the vendor will meet company HRIS requirements
  • Cost breakdown
  • References from existing clients

Outline Your Criteria for Selection

Describe what criteria your company will use to select the winning vendor. Vendors are competing against each other to win the bid and need to know what you’re using to choose a winner. Knowing what criteria you’ll use to make the decision will help vendors to craft a response to your RFP that shows they can meet your needs.

Note the Timeline

The timeline section should go into greater detail about when you expect to have responses submitted when you will announce which vendor you have selected, and when you expect to begin the project. Be sure to give each vendor ample time to devise a thorough response.

Proofread and Revise Your RFP

The first RFP that you submit won’t necessarily be the final RFP. Vendors can make suggestions for improvements to the RFP. These suggestions will be to help you better define your project. If the RFP isn’t detailed enough, the bids placed by vendors may not actually fully meet your needs or may be vaguer than what you’re actually looking for.

Evaluate the Vendors

After you have submitted the RFPs to your shortlist of vendors, you should begin doing research so that you already have a good idea who will be selected before you even begin reviewing the responses. This will give you a more educated outlook so that you know exactly who you are dealing with when you begin reading responses. Keep all that you have learned in mind when you meet with vendor representatives face-to-face.

After you have selected the vendor that best fits your needs, use your RFP and their responses to structure the contract. The contract should protect your interests, but be considerate of the interests of the vendor. A well thought out contract will help to make the rest of the negotiation process flow more smoothly.

Additional RFP Tips

If an RFP is written well, you’re more likely to get more responses from vendors. The more responses you get, the more likely you are to find a vendor that more closely matches what you need.

Use Bullet Points and Subheadings

Bullet points and subheadings will help keep your RFP organized so it’s easier to read and understand. The bullet points and subheadings break up the text so that it’s easier to scan and digest. The easier the RFP is to understand, the more likely you’ll get more responses from vendors.

Write What You Know

It’s always easier to write what you know than to write about something you’re unfamiliar with. Ideally, your RFP should be about something you know and understand well. If you don’t know what you want, the vendors won’t either. The more you know about exactly what you’re looking for, the more details you can provide.

Provide Details, But Don’t Prescribe

You may know what you’re looking for, but only the vendors know how they can provide it. When you write an RFP, it’s important to be as descriptive and detailed as possible with what you’re looking for. However, there may be more than one way to provide you with what you need. Don’t prescribe the solution to the vendors. Instead, let the vendors offer their best solutions to you. They may have options for meeting the requirements that you weren’t aware of.

What Not to Do With an RFP

RFPs can be confusing if not written well. A confusing RFP can result in your company choosing a vendor that doesn’t quite match your needs. In order to write a good RFP, there are some common mistakes that you should avoid.

Don’t Prescribe an Action

While details are important, it’s not a good idea to dictate in the RFP how you want the vendor to do something. Instead, ask how the vendor might accomplish what you need. The vendor will need to comply with your requirements, but it’s a good idea to see how the vendor will go about meeting those needs. Asking an open-ended question instead of a yes or no question will provide you with more details about the vendor and how they’ll be able to work for you.

Don’t Combine Questions in One Bullet Point

Each question should be its own bullet or number. Having multiple questions in one bullet point is confusing for the vendor. It also means that the response is going to be confusing to you because multiple answers would be combined into one section, making it more difficult to read and understand.

Don’t Spread Questions Throughout the RFP

To make the RFP as easy to understand as possible, make sure all questions are located in the same section of the RFP. That way, the vendor can more easily respond to all questions and won’t risk missing any because. Even if you provide instructions for where to find all of the questions throughout the document, it’s still better to write them all in one part of the document in the first place. Vendors will be more confident they’ve addressed all of your questions and the responses will also be easier for your company to read and understand.

If your company is looking for a HRIS, we can help you find the right vendor. Our HR software match page has a tool that matches your needs with the features offered by the vendor.

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