Thursday, May 16, 2013

Asking questions about a Request for Proposal #apmp

A portion of my work is spent in responding to Requests for Proposal (RFPs), normally from state and local government agencies. These RFPs have been developed by the customer (often with the help of one or more consultants), and describe exactly what vendors such as my employer should include in our proposals.

In the ideal world, the RFP is clear, concise, and not contradictory. However, there is a chance that the RFP may not be ideal, which is why most RFPs allow vendors to ask questions about the RFP by a certain date. This ability to ask questions is used often; in fact, there have been a very few cases in which I have been tempted to submit the following question to the agency that issued the RFP.

Are you insane?

(Incidentally, if you work for an agency or a consulting firm that issued an RFP for the AFIS industry, I can assure you that your RFP was absolutely perfect. It was some other agency's/consultant's RFP that was messed up.)

As you can imagine, this can potentially get more complex when you are responding to a FEDERAL RFP. And if you're in the proposal response industry, you probably saw this question that was addressed to Wendy Frieman, the Proposal Doctor.

Dear Proposal Doctor,

The battle over which questions to send to the government customer on a long and not-very-well-written RFP has begun. The desktop publishers want to ask about fonts. The graphics people want to ask about color and foldout pages. The solution architect wants to ask about specifications and performance metrics. The contracts people want to suggest new terms and conditions. The pricing people want to ask about….everything.

Just collecting, vetting, discussing, formatting, and submitting the questions could eat up our entire response time. What is a proposal manager to do? How can we streamline this process?

-Questioning the Questions

Many medium or large proposals require input from all over the company; the departments listed in the questions are just some of the departments that could be stakeholders in a proposal.

Go here to see the Proposal Doctor's answer.
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