RE: Help! Suddenly I'm a new RPF/proposal writer

Subject: RE: Help! Suddenly I'm a new RPF/proposal writer
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2002 06:47:20 -0400


I know you are replying to the other Dick, but I'm going to jump in again here anyway.

As a consumer of RFPs (the guy who gets to put the responses together), I've found that RFPs and RFIs (requests for information) fall into four categories--well, three and a half categories.

Many of them are of the some-poor-schmuck variety (pardon my Yiddish, but if the phasers are set to stun on your email filter, this post is already going to be rejected for two Dicks). The CFO tells the project manager, "You can't spend that kind of money without putting the job out for bid. Put an RFP together." So the project manager grabs some poor shmuck and tells him to put an RFP together. This hapless person sends an email to five or six functional managers and asks them to suggest requirements. Three or four of them dash off a top-of-the-head email list. The person allegedly writing the RFP compiles these in no particular order and without eliminating duplicates or checking for consistency and, voila, here's your RFP, Boss. I gotta say, this kind is awful to respond to, because there is no way to divine the best way to answer conflicting requirements.

The second category is the thoroughly professional RFP. This may be put together by a management consultant working on your prospect's behalf, or it may be put together by an internal department that has experience and has a consistent process they use. These tend to be much longer and more detailed RFPs--often much too detailed--and they take a lot of time and resources to respond to. On the other hand, there is clearly a logical mind behind them; so answering all the questions may be challenging, but it is also satisfying. Furthermore, it gives the respondent a sense that the prospect is serious about going through with the purchase--they're not just fishing. My only comment if you are involved in preparing these is that you could get all the information you need for making a decision with a lot shorter questionnaire--and save vendors a lot of money in the process. That would be nice of you.

The two-and-a-halfth category consists of the latter type of RFP, but those that have been "borrowed" from other projects or other companies and massaged a bit. (People, people. At least change the company name under File > Properties!)

The third category is the dreaded lockout spec. This is a document that looks like an RFP, prepared by one vendor but distributed by the prospect as if they had prepared it themselves. Essentially, the project manager has selected a vendor already and is going through the motions of an RFP process to satisfy the CFO. The lockout spec consists of requirements that, taken together, can only be fulfilled by the originating vendor. Thus it "locks out" the competition, hence the name. The nice thing about lockout specs from the point of view of the person responding is that once you've got the answers written, you can keep reusing them every time you encounter the same document from another prospect.

Finally, one unrelated point. I recently bought and installed a product called The RFP Machine, which is supposed to make responding to RFPs easier. It has a database where it stores binary chunks of Word documents. In theory you do a category and keyword search to find already-written answers that you can reuse. The jury is still out, but I find it clunky and cumbersome to use. I think folks should be aware that it exists and might be useful in some organizations, but it's definitely a YMMV thing.


"Ed Gregory" <ed -at- gregorynet -dot- net> wrote:
>Dick, [the other one]
>Some respondents are assuming that you are going to be writing proposals in
>response to RFPs, but you said you were going to be an "RFP writer". That's
>on the opposite side of the fence.
>If you are going to write RFPs rather than the responses to RFPs, write to
>me directly and I will share with you some lessons learned. Writing a
>Request for Proposal can be every bit as political as it is technical.

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