Issuing a request for proposal (RFP) is a best practice for big purchases like software. An RFP is a document that provides background and details about your project and solicits bids from vendors. It helps you gather proposals and discover how well potential products meet your requirements.
Creating an RFP can be a time-consuming effort. But, it will be rewarding in the long run, as it allows you to uncover the details you need to make an informed decision about potential membership management solutions.
Here are 12 steps to creating an RFP for your union’s next membership management system:
- Communicate with members from each department in your organization to define functional requirements, determine budget for your project, and decide on a timeline for the software selection process.
- Narrow the number of viable vendors by doing some initial research online. You can take this a step further by issuing a request for information (RFI) before the RFP. An RFI asks basic questions: high level capabilities, vendor strengths, and typical cost. It’s fair to send an RFI to many prospective vendors. RFIs are relatively easy to respond to, and most vendors will respond.
- Document your business processes for each department and how your association uses existing systems to manage the processes.
- Determine your criteria for selection based on what matters most to you (for example, ease of use, flexibility, ability to integrate with third-party systems, etc.).
- Assign an individual at your organization who can serve as point-of-contact for vendors’ questions and RFP responses. This person should be knowledgeable and involved through the entire process. This person can also be the one to keep communications lines open between vendors and your organization.
- Put your data and requirements into a comprehensive RFP document. Here’s where you can ask vendors for things like background information, implementation methods, references, examples of similar projects, and more. A typical RFP includes the following elements:
Overview of your organization
Project requirements, including budget
Project deliverables and specifications
Request for references
Proposal due date
Your criteria for evaluating RFPs
How to reply/contact information
- Create a requirements matrix as part of the RFP that defines your business needs so vendors can provide thorough details about their product capabilities related to each need.
- Send your final RFP, with requirements matrix, to your short list of vendors. Give the vendors specific deadlines for asking questions and returning their proposals in response to your RFP.
- Once all responses are collected, set aside time to review each response with decision- makers at your organization to assess each product’s capabilities and qualifications, while maintaining contact with vendors in case questions arise.
- Request thorough product demos with vendor finalists. Be sure to provide them with a list of specific areas of the product, as well as work or process scenarios, to make sure you see what you want to see.
- Ask final questions and discuss pricing. At this point, your IT team might want to request additional demos for a deeper look at system functionality.
- Review all details with your team to decide which vendor and product can best meet your organization’s needs. Once you have made a decision, contact the vendor to get contracts signed and your system implementation under way.