Unfortunately, Susan, our fictitious school nutrition director, cannot always avoid putting out an RFP like she did last week. The options of co-ops and state agreements are not always present or easily accessible. She could even be in the situation where her district will likely require this. Although she doesn’t love this process, Susan is not worried because over the years she has developed a fool-proof plan for putting out solid RFPs. See how Susan suggests you create a hassle free RFP below.
1) Make your requirements crystal clear
Creating clear guidelines for school nutrition software companies cuts back on any confusion. This will, in turn, reduce wasted time asking and answering questions. By clearly stating your requirements you ensure that you are receiving exactly what you need to make the best decision. It is crucial to develop these guidelines first as they set the path for the rest of the RFP process.
2) Be reasonable in response times
It is simple—give the companies a response time that you would like to have. Putting out an RFP Monday morning and expecting a response by Wednesday afternoon just isn’t going to do. Be sure you set a response time that is practical. However, don’t set a response time too far away because this drags the process out longer than necessary. Susan would suggest a response time of about a month.
3) Create a clear timeline
Along the same lines as giving a reasonable response time, be sure you include a detailed timeline. The RFP timeline should include the last date to submit questions, the deadline for notification of intention to bid, the proposal due date, the finalist demo dates, and the proposal award date. By outlining these important dates from the get-go you won’t leave anything up to interpretation. Your district can never be too transparent when it comes to timelines.
4) Don’t give too much weight to price
While budget is important it is not everything. If you put too much weight into price you may have to choose the lowest bidder and not the one who meets all your requirements. If a software is cheap but does not meet your district’s particular needs it is useless. Instead of focusing on the price, evaluate the return on investment.
5) Assess responses
After all the vendors submit their responses it is important to verify the information that they provided. For example, a software company may say they have a web-based solution, but they do not. This is important information to know before moving forward. (Hopefully the research you did prior to the RFP will pay off here!). Once you have verified all the information, choose the finalists and ask for one last demo of their software.
Susan is confident that with these tips, any school nutrition director can put out a successful RFP. She hopes these ideas save school nutrition professionals, like herself, a lot of time and energy throughout the dreaded process. Does your school district find value in RFPs? What do you do to simplify the process?