RFPs provide vendors with some degree of freedom in proposing solutions. Consequently, your evaluation process must be more elaborate than for a RFB/RFQ (Request For Bid/Quote): a simple determination of compliance/eligibility followed by choosing the lowest price.
Evaluating responses to RFP requires you to establish additional criteria and rules to score them. Before publishing the RFP you should define
- the members of your evaluation team,
- the rules for communicating between your entity and the vendors,
- evaluation criteria.
The evaluation criteria is your tool to be used for your advantage. It has two purposes:
- to communicate your high level priorities to the vendors,
- to enable fair and efficient evaluation.
The evaluation criteria should be worked out in detail internally so that your organizations’ priorities are well understood and agreed by everyone on the evaluation team, making the process as smooth and non-controversial as possible.
The criteria should, however, be communicated only on high level externally. Providing all the mechanics of evaluation to the vendors may lock you into buying a sub-optimal solution, as they will naturally focus on meeting your criteria, rather than proposing the most effective solution.
Picking your team
Your evaluation team should include a broad cross-section of all stakeholders, although it is not necessary to include representatives from each of the stakeholder groups.
You should also involve objective experts: a consultant will bring experience and objectivity, your peers from neighboring counties or state organizations understand your challenges from a different perspective. You need to decide whether to give them any votes, but their opinions and comments will be invaluable.
Rules of engagement
The rules of communication with the vendors must be simple but strictly enforced, to make the procurement process as transparent and fair as possible. Failure to do so may lead to your decision being successfully challenged, resulting in significant loss of time and money – not to mention embarrassment. Your RFP should include a clause defining a single point of contact. This will usually be someone in your Purchasing department as they are familiar with procurement rules.
You should also state that all communications will be shared with all competitors, and clarify unequivocally that any attempts to approach your organization other than via the designated point of contact will result in the offending vendor being eliminated from further proceedings.
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