More often than not, the RFPs we receive are mind-numbing tomes chock-full of complexity and confusion. Simply getting through the submission guidelines can be an exhausting mental exercise. Not to mention having to digest page upon page of requirements, which are often at odds with stated goals and objectives only adding to the overall confusion of the process.
So, what exactly is at the root of RFP complexity and confusion? We’re glad you asked.
RFP complexity can be directly linked to two issues:
1) Procurement or other regulatory submission guideline that require respondents to fill out, notarize and submit all manner of forms, checklists, affidavits, affirmations, proclamations, spreadsheets and questionnaires.
2) Submission guidelines often dictate response parameters (page count, formatting, soft vs. hard copies) in painstaking detail. Not only does this make the process painful, in many cases it is simply unnecessary.
RFP confusion stems from three main causes: 1) The overwritten RFP, 2) the under written RFP and 3) the poorly written RFP. Let’s face it, most of the people who write RFPS are not full time proposal writers; all have other fulltime responsibilities; often in IT or marketing or even in procurement. They are almost always highly qualified and experienced in their prospective areas of expertise, but proposal writing is a skill set unto itself.
When we start to review and analysis any given RFP, we see many common points of confusion including:
- The RFP states technical solutions the issuer may not fully understand to begin with. This often takes the form of asking for a certain programming language or content management system (CMS) that will not support stated business needs.
- Stated business, functional, technical and creative requirement aren’t always clearly defined or stated in such a way as to put them at odds with each other.
- Entire sections of the RFP are cut and pasted ideas from other RFPs in an attempt to make them fit their own situation – even if they don’t – or to save time on the actual writing of the document.
- If a company is on a fishing expedition, requirements may span the gamut. The RFP may only be a reconnaissance mission designed to collect as much information as possible relative to the strategic, technical and creative aspects a “proposed” project. This makes it nearly impossible for respondents to focus in on any real RFP goals, objectives or solutions, if there are any at all.
- We have even reviewed RFPs with response formats that are nothing more than extended excel spreadsheets with one column for ranking our qualification across all requirements (strategic, technical, creative, etc.) on a convoluted scale and a second column for brief comments to explain our ranking against the ranking– and that is all.
Can all this complexity and confusion be avoided? Certainly. But it means that companies who are required to issue RFPs must take a step back from the process. They will have to invest time, energy and resources into assembling an RFP that not only makes sense, but also will invite participation from the best possible agency partner.
By cutting away the complexity – while staying within any regulatory requirements – and eliminating confusion by stating clear, realistic goals, objectives and requirements and by ensuring the right people, with the right resources are actually writing the RFP, companies just may find the quality of their RFP responses will dramatically increase.