Request for Proposal Procedures and Tips

Should you run a solicitation and selection process based on a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the first time, you may find useful, and helpful, having handy a tutorial presenting the standard, formal procedures to follow or comply with, like:

  • the selection process timing;
  • how to, when, and why reject a proposal;
  • how to deal with errors in the RFP discovered prior or after the proposal closing date;
  • how to protest against a biased or flawed selection process; or
  • merely how not to make of your selection process a total disaster.

When do you have to put a formal solicitation and selection process in place?

You may be required, depending on your organization's purchasing policy, to use a formal solicitation and selection process for an acquisition which amount exceeds a certain threshold defined in your procurement policy.

What is the difference between an Invitation to Bid (ITB) and a solicitation and selection process based on a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

An invitation to bid (ITB) is relevant when you want to pay the lowest price for the same value.

In other words, what is the difference between bid and proposal?

ITB are used when you know exactly what you want and, because there is no or insignificant difference in term of value between the different providers' offerings, you want to pay as less as possible for the acquisition of these goods, product, or services. It's the method of the "lowest price technically acceptable". The ITB-based selection process is the cornerstone of the best price procurement.

A solicitation and selection process based on a Request for Proposal (RFP) is relevant when you want to pay the lowest price for the best value. Given that the value of the different proposals differ, the RFP-based selection process seeks a tradeoff between selecting the best of proposed solutions and minimizing the budget you are willing to spend in order to maximize expected benefits. Does it remind you the saying "As you sow, so shall you reap"?
To achieve the goal of computing such a benefits/costs ratio, a mathematical method called Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) is commonly used. This method relies on building a decision matrix by using the S.T.A.R.S. formula:

  1. Specify your needs, them prioritize them;

  2. Translate them into a decision model under the form of a set of criteria organized within a decision hierarchy, then assign them a weight based on their relative importance in the final decision;

  3. Analyze, compare, and challenge alternatives with mathematical models (rate, score, and sort; sensitivity analysis, robustness, etc.);

  4. Rank alternatives based on their ratio of adequation to the decision model

  5. Select the alternative offering the best value at the lowest cost.

The RFP-based selection process is the cornerstone of the best value procurement.

What are the steps of a formal solicitation and selection process?

The purpose of a formal solicitation and selection process is to get the best value at the best price by having providers competing against each others, and to avoid, as a by-product, favoritism, or any other bias, by using formal procedures ensuring an accurate, relevant, well-documented, thus auditable final decision. Before entering the solicitation and selection cycle, you have no choice but getting approval from your upper management, and requesting for legal and financial counsels, whether internal or external.

Here is an outline of the procedures inherent to a formal solicitation and selection process:

  1. RFP preparation, avoid boilerplate as much as possible
  2. Release of a public notice of solicitation (RFP, RFP cover letter)
  3. Pre-proposal meeting, mandatory or optional
  4. Receipt of prospective providers' letter of intent to bid or submit a proposal, or their no-bid letter
  5. Receipt of proposals with their proposal cover letter, kept closed in a secure place until due date
  6. Cancellation of the solicitation process, proposals returned unopened
  7. Withdrawal of proposals from their provider
  8. or contractual requirements defined in the RFP
  9. Addenda or amendments to the RFP and, eventually, extension of the proposal receipt due date
  10. Modification of the initial RFP, modification and receipt of proposals, and, eventually, extension of the proposal receipt due date
  11. Disqualification of proposals, proposals returned unopened
  12. Proposal opening at proposal receipt due date
  13. Refusal of late proposal withdrawals, protests, submissions, or modifications
  14. Cancellation of proposals after closing date, notification to providers
  15. Rating, scoring, and sorting proposals in a Decision Matrix
  16. Mistakes discovered in proposals
  17. Extension of proposal submission due date
  18. for non-responsiveness or providers for non-responsibility, notification to providers
  19. Rejection of all proposals, notification to providers
  20. Appeal of proposal rejection, appeal handling process
  21. Selection of the best matching proposal
  22. Contact providers and request their best offer or BAFO (Best And Final Offer), Firm Fixed Price (FFP), and ideally for an Indefinite Quantity Contract (IQC)
  23. Decline other proposals (letter to decline a proposal)
  24. Award notice (RFP Contract Award Letter)
  25. Appeal of selection or award procedure
  26. Contract preparation
  27. Contract signature


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