Businessman with a laptop looking at a request for proposal (RFP) document

What does RFP stand for? An RFP, or request for proposal, is a standard tool that organizations use to conduct business. Depending on your organization’s size or sector, you may create a request for proposal as part of the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software purchasing process.

As a maintenance manager, you will likely be asked to contribute to or write an RFP. Therefore, it is important to have a basic understanding of requests for proposal, including what is an RFP, what is the RFP process, and is an RFP necessary? Here are the basics of RFPs:

What is an RFP?

A request for proposal (RFP) is a formal document that describes the requirements of a project encompassing products and services and solicits a proposal from qualified vendors. Organizations develop RFPs for big purchases and complex projects that require outside help, technical expertise, or specialized capability to complete. When used as part of your organization’s bidding process, an RFP helps you identify the best-qualified vendor who can meet your needs.

Who Uses RFPs?

Requests for proposal are typically used by organizations that operate in the public sector, such as government, education, or energy. Companies in these industries are generally required to engage in a fair bidding process with open competition from private companies. This process also ensures that vendors are submitting low-cost, competitive bids for projects funded by taxpayer dollars. Medium-to- large-sized private companies may also use an RFP as part of their software procurement process.

Who Writes an RFP?

The person or people who write an RFP depends on the organization. RFPs developed by large organizations will typically start from a template and be updated by someone in a business analyst role. Other key stakeholders in the CMMS buying process, such as the maintenance manager, will play a big role in defining requirements. If your company is writing an RFP for the first time, check out our blog article How to Write an RFP for CMMS Software.

Why Use an RFP?

There are many reasons why your organization may choose to develop an RFP. First, the RFP process is more comprehensive than independent research and includes more information than what is usually found online. RFPs result in higher-quality proposals which lead to better client-vendor relationships, and ultimately better outcomes and higher return on investment (ROI).

An RFP also helps you be more methodical about your evaluation of potential vendors. The RFP dictates what must be included in a response, making it easier for apples-to-apples comparisons. Following a formal RFP process also helps to remove some personal biases during evaluation, ensuring that your team selects a CMMS fairly and not just because someone on the team “likes” it.

Another reason to use an RFP is that technology purchases, like a CMMS, can be complex. An RFP gets all CMMS stakeholders involved and ensures all needs are addressed.

Do You Need to Use an RFP for a CMMS Software Purchase?

You may be wondering, “Do I need to use an RFP for my CMMS software project?” It depends. The RFP process can be demanding and time-consuming, which is why it is usually used in larger organizations with ample resources. Small businesses can usually get away with an abbreviated RFP process or a less formal approach altogether.

That said, the RFP process forces organizations to take a close look at why they have a need for a CMMS and document their goals for the system. Therefore, it may still be beneficial for companies, regardless of size, to consider going through an RFP exercise.

The RFP Process Explained

As we mentioned earlier, an RFP describes the project’s required products and services, but creating the document is just one part of the RFP process. The following steps outline a typical RFP process. Keep in mind that every organization’s procedure will differ depending on their size and sector in which it operates. For example, a government agency will likely use a more thorough, closely-examined RFP process than a medium-sized private business.

  1. Define Your Requirements
    Before you can draft your RFP document, you need to define your needs and requirements. To do this, you will need to discuss your current situation and maintenance management goals with key stakeholders in the organization and document exactly what the stakeholders need the CMMS to accomplish (and in what timeframe).
  2. Create Preliminary Vendor List via a Request for Information (RFI)
    Prior to drafting and sending out the formal RFP document, some organizations gather preliminary vendor information in the form of a request for information (RFI). The RFI briefly states your project needs and asks vendors a short set of standard questions about vendor history, capabilities, and experience.The goal of the RFI is to initially narrow the pool of potential vendors. Screening vendors in this way helps you identify who is worth sending your RFP document to and who you can remove from consideration before you get too far into the process. In another blog article, we cover other methods for building a CMMS vendor list.
  3. Write and Distribute RFP
    With your requirements defined and a list of potential vendors identified, you can begin to craft your RFP document. Your RFP should include questions that the CMMS vendor must answer regarding their proposed solution, approximate timelines, and cost, as well as other information about their company background and expertise, experience helping similar clients, and other qualities that make them special. Once the document is written, distribute it to the vendors identified earlier.
  4. Evaluate Responses and Create Vendor Shortlist
    Once vendor responses start rolling in, you and your team must review and evaluate the proposals. The goal is to narrow your vendor list down to the top 2 – 3 choices. A clear “winner” may not emerge from the group at this point, but there are usually a few vendors that everyone agrees are frontrunners. You should eliminate any vendor that does not meet your minimum requirements.
  5. Evaluate Finalists and Issue a Request for Quote (RFQ)
    When you have created your shortlist, you should reach out to each finalist to clarify any questions or concerns you have about the proposals. During this phase, you and your team should also schedule and participate in any product demonstrations.If pricing information and a quote were not included in the vendor’s RFP response, you may issue a request for quote (RFQ). An RFQ asks for a formal quote for products and services, and includes information like payment terms and contract details.

Read Blog Article: What to Expect from a CMMS Software Demonstration

  1. Make a Decision
    This is the part where all your hard work pays off. You and your team must look at all the information and options that you have been provided and determine which vendor you think can best deliver on your expectations. If you do not feel like you have enough information to make the decision, ask for additional demos, read user reviews or CMMS case studies, or ask for references, if needed. Once you have chosen a winner, make sure you also inform the other contenders that they were not selected.

What’s Next?

Requests for proposal must be written carefully in order to ensure that you get exactly what you want. There’s a lot of legwork that goes into the writing of an RFP document and we can help you with that. Read our blog article, How to Write an RFP for CMMS Software. In the meantime, learn more about the CMMS features and services FTMaintenance has to offer.

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