PHASE 3
With the document complete, the next step is to construct a logical process to handle the vendors once the document is in their hands. It's at this stage where many RFP efforts falter internally because dealing with the voluminous paperwork becomes too daunting. The IT Controller only wants to focus on the cheapest bid; business sponsors lose focus because they can't understand all the technical documentation. For these reasons, it's important to implement this phase correctly, so that vendors submit actionable proposals that are relevant and compelling.

Toward that end, activities in this phase should include:

Hold a serious Q&A period. Some RFPs omit this crucial step or do not give it enough attention. Vendors should be encouraged to ask detailed and provocative questions. Furthermore, the organization that issued the RFP should answer each question fully and clearly. The questions and answers should be published to all RFP recipients, resulting in a vendor community with complete knowledge of the desired solution elements and attributes.

Establish well-defined proposal submittal guidelines. Most vendors will structure their responses differently, making it difficult for organizations to compare them. To avoid this, instruct vendors to submit proposals

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that conform to the following format:

Decision-maker sketch: a one page summary of the bid's key points (cost, differentiators, most compelling attributes and so forth). It's sometimes presented in the form of a cover letter.

Executive summary: a roll-up, in five or fewer pages, of the technical and business solution proposed, including graphics to depict important concepts and an ROI breakdown.

Response: the detailed answers to each RFP question/requirement. This should be provided using identical numbering and format as the RFP so that each requirement can be referenced easily and compared to other vendor responses.

Appendix: All vendors should provide a CD containing all the large documents, white papers, diagrams and other material referenced in the response.

This was first published in June 2004

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