5 Mistakes of an IT RFP

RFP Illustration


Let’s be honest, writing an RFP (request for proposal) can be tedious. You may be excited to invest in a new IT related initiative, but you want to make sure you collect responses from quality companies that fit your businesses expectations. It’s important to construct them well. The better the RFP, the better the proposals, and good proposals lead to better working relationships, which lead to better outcomes.

You want to be able to communicate your needs as effectively as possible so as not to evoke any tepid responses that leave your company wishing it spent more time finding the right firm for the job.  Think about the detail’s vendors need to know about your project to bid accurately. Consider the questions you should ask to assess their capabilities. Through years of experience both writing and responding to RFPs we want to share five common mistakes made when writing an IT RFP, and how to address them:

Mistake: Failure to Share Who You Are


Provide a clear concise overview of your company: the service/products you provide, and what your customers expect from you.  Tie this into your needs from a vendor as well as an overview of your current state.  Include the technology you currently have in place as well as your employees’ range of technical aptitudes.  This will help your vendors better understand your needs, your strengths, and your shortcomings.  It can also help your vendors understand the framework in which they need to operate in order to provide you with a more fitting proposal of services.  The better the fit, the more successful your projects will be.  The benefits of doing this don’t only help your vendors either.  It will also force you to take a deeper look at your business to analyze what your current state actually is.  It will allow you to focus on the must haves versus the nice to haves.

Mistake: Unclear Expectations

Be clear on response requirements. 

  • Require an executive summary of your vendors stating their size, capabilities, and differentiators
  • State clear timelines
  • Date of RFP issuance
  • Deadline for vendor questions
  • Deadline for question responses
  • Deadline for RFP responses
  • Provide approximate timing for your decision as well a
    s when you want to kick off your project.

Doing so will not only ensure vendors respond on time but will also help you to stay organized and on track.

Mistake: Lack of Organization

Ensure that your RFPs are organized and concise: Start with an outline of topics and organize your questions/ requirements to this outline.  Make sure to get input for the outline and requirements from different parts of your business as to not miss critical or conflicting requirements.  This helps you ensure your business is aligned before project initiation versus during.  Finding out during the engagement can likely add additional time or even scope creep.  Also, be sure to include if your requirement is a must have or nice to have along with details on how to respond.

Mistake: Not Uncovering Vendor Differentiation


Ask questions on implementation: What does the vendor’s typical project team look like, how do they conduct projects, when can they can they start, can they provide a project schedule estimate, what is the cost and what is included in this.  While vendors can often provide the similar products and services, they can vary in implementation capabilities.  Also, if you need a vendor who offers more consultative services, asking about their project approach can give insight if they are the right vendor for you.  Do they include business analysis and requirements gathering in their proposal?  Or are they more “do as they are told”.  A good vendor will form a partnership with you and point out alternates that may be in your best interest.  This helps to ensure your users better adopt the change.  Also, be sure to indicate post-implementation support that you may need such as training and technical support.  Ensure your vendor has a chance to indicate what they can provide.


Mistake: Shortsightedness

Don’t focus only on the now:  Think of what you may need in the future.  While these may not be core requirements, allow your vendors to indicate what other services they can provide.  This

helps you select a vendor that you can grow with you.  A single vendor can often offer discounts for multiple services and solutions while streamlining your vendor management.  Dealing with numerous vendors for smaller projects complicates your internal business processes, from project management to invoicing and accounts payable.  Choosing a vendor that can meet a wider array of needs helps to ensure long-term adherence to your corporate strategy, ensuring more seamless integration of potential future technologies.  Establish a relationship with a vendor who can be your trusted advisor for your best chances of achieving success.

Again, the better the RFP is, the better the proposal your vendors can send in response. Now, you’re ready to get started! Feel free to use the example IT project RFP template we prepared based on this post and our experience.

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