A while back I wrote a detailed post on Website RFPs. I lambasted and vilified RFPs. In hindsight, it was a little… ahem… emotional. I was jaded, we had just lost a bid on a project and I was disappointed to say the least. However, yesterday I logged into our website to see a comment from a visitor – Brian. Brian took the time to write a massive comment on the post and had some helpful suggestions as to solve the problem of Website RFPs in general noting:
…instead of bashing RFP’s altogether, it would behoove you to be part of the solution (by giving more clear examples, maybe in the form of a downloadable sample of YOUR preferred RFP format), instead of complaining about the problem (and crying about why you didn’t get the job).
On reflection over the last day, I have to agree with everything he wrote entirely. It’s funny, I’ve been reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and it’s amazing how with a slight shift in perspective so much is possible. With that in mind, I’d like to apologize for the previous post, completely bashing Website RFPs, and would like to extend a big thank you to Brian for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful comment, and for being the inspiration for this follow-up.
His comment helped me to see the RFP process from his perspective (and that of other clients who have contacted us via RFPs) and allowed me to see how vital they are and how at the end of the day, everyone using an RFP is simply trying to select the best vendor, create a fair environment for selecting a vendor and make the process more efficient.
WEBSITE RFP TEMPLATES
After doing some quick searches on what’s available for Website RFP Templates, I found a couple that I thought might be helpful but missed the mark a bit, and didn’t address many of the concerns and suggestions I brought up in my previous post.
So, I’ve decided to put together a template that helps solve many of the issues that arise during the request for proposal process. Notably, the issues we see during this process include:
This is left out of nearly every RFP and is vital to a successful project.
Project Description (Goals)
Ultimately the best firms are looking to help you achieve results not just implement solutions.
An upfront, honest discussion on budget helps every project.
Want vs. Needs
What’s absolutely mandatory and what are those things that you’d like to have?
Strict RFPs don’t allow for a particular company’s strengths, weaknesses, etc. to shine through.
Setting a framework for initial communication is vital to a successful project.
HOW THE WEBSITE RFP TEMPLATE IS ORGANIZED
The samples I’ve attached at the bottom of this post are simple. One link is for the original word document (where you can replace the notes/suggestions with your own information), and another is a link to a PDF sample I quickly filled out as an example (and to further this post – more in a moment).
Overall it features 14 major sections:
- Company Mission
- Company Description
- Project Description/Intent
- Project Description (Design)
- Project Description (Marketing)
- Project Description (Programming)
- Persons Involved
- Availability During Proposal Process
- Preferred Method of Contact
- Other Helpful Information
Each section outlines a bit of our thoughts on this. We are inherently biased in this, and going through this process has been interesting – namely filling out the RFP similar to another we’ve received – and gaining a better understanding of the organizations/persons mind-set as they fill this out. Each section is obviously flexible and you can replace with anything you find appropriate or important for you.
WHERE THE WEBSITE RFP TEMPLATES FAIL
In filling out the sample template above, I did realize how challenging this is for anyone going through this process. And I didn’t even dive into any of the technology. It seems like around 80% of RFPs include technical details – based on past experience, advice, etc. – all of which may or may not be relevant. But, in addition to that, there are so many questions that arise from our perspective that need to be addressed to accurate quote/proposal and successfully execute a project.
If you download the sample PDF above – you’ll see I list that Widget company would like to sell products on their website. Without getting too deep – this already brings up about 10 questions that must be answered to properly proceed.
With this in mind I kept things as flexible as possible – with a concentration on communication. As we state to every new client, communication is the most vital part of this new relationship – and getting it right up front – and continuing it throughout the the lifetime of the project and relationship – is vital to a happy experience on everyone’s end.
One final note – added in the “other helpful information” section in both the sample PDF and the word document are some of the selection criteria. It’s helpful as a dev firm to understand what’s important to you. Do you care about the fanciest design, tech, getting the job done right the first time, achieving your goals/revenue? The more you can detail out what the successful firm you choose will look like – the more it helps set expectations and allows the future developers to understand you and your businesses unique needs.