A poorly written RFP (Request for Proposal) causes confusion for not only the vendors who are trying to respond, but creates more headaches for you. Often the headaches are caused by a vendor misinterpreting your needs or what you are asking for. It becomes difficult to compare solutions when vendors have a different understanding of what is being requested. In some cases, the RFP process or results can be contested causing your organization to throw out all RFP responses, leaving you to start the entire process all over again.
Here are some tips that will help to avoid confusion.
As an organization, you first need to determine what type of RFP works for your situation. Your first choice is to tell vendors exactly what type of equipment is needed. By telling the vendors what is needed, you will have an easy apples to apples comparison. However, this option may not provide the most efficient or cost effective solution. Your second option is to provide vendors with information about your current situation and allow them to create a customized solution for your organization. This approach may lead to innovative options that your organization may not have been aware of. Either choice has it's advantages and disadvantages.
Equipment and SpecificationsRegardless of what type of RFP is being used, vendors need guidelines regarding desired equipment. Have there been any changes in the organization that would affect the printing needs of a particular department? Is there a specific type of media that is being printed on such as envelopes, thick/thin paper, tabs, transparencies, etc.? What type of finishing options should be included…stapling, hole punch, folding, binding? The more details you can provide on what types of printing you are doing, will give your vendors a better idea of what type of equipment you need.
Monthly VolumeHere is a point that many RFPs fail to include, simply because an organization may not be aware of how much it is actually printing. If your organization is not keeping track of current print volume then your guessing at how much is actually being printed - and which department prints more... Marketing or Accounting? It is critical to provide a current list of equipment along with the volume for each device. There is a specific amount of volume printed per month at which it is more cost effective to upgrade to a faster MFP and this number is different for each manufacturer. By providing the current volume, you may find that although a 50 page per minute device is requested, the vendor recommends a 60 ppm device since it is more cost effective.
ServiceService is the most important part of an MFP solution. All vendors should have equipment that can meet requested specifications, so providing a smooth transition with excellent ongoing service is critical. Every vendor is going to claim that they have excellent service, so ask questions to ensure that the vendors have a service structure that can support your organization’s needs. How many local technicians? Certifications and training? What is the process if an MFP cannot be repaired immediately? Service guarantees? References? Awards? The more informed you and your staff are about how to contact service and steps to replace equipment when needed, will reduce the amount of frustration when something does happen.
PriceHaving vendors present their pricing in a manner that can be compared can be difficult. Many organizations request to have the pricing broken down in various ways…equipment, service, cost per copy, per device, etc. While it may be important to have this pricing broken down for budgeting or accounting purposes, it can be very challenging for the vendors. For example, some of the components of the proposal are not priced per device, so vendors spread the cost over all the equipment and if any equipment is added or removed, the pricing for all equipment is affected. Through the RFP process, the bottom line price for the entire solution is all that is needed. Once a solution has been selected, the awarded vendor can provide a necessary breakdown of the pricing.
Using these tips will make the RFP process easier for everyone involved and provide responses in a way that can be easily understood and evaluated. Good luck with your RFP!