- What is a request for proposal?
A request for proposal (RFP) is a document used by a business to communicate a need for supplies and/or services to industry. The RFP process invites diverse suppliers to submit proposals to meet the desired need and allows the business to evaluate qualifications of interested suppliers and enter a contract with the successful offeror. Issuing an RFP is a multi-step process that can be time-consuming and complex. However, a well-drafted RFP is necessary to ensure professionalism, accuracy, and fairness.
Most often, an RFP is issued when there is a new need which cannot be support through internal resources. The RFP can be an effective way to connect with vendors, partners, consultants, or organizations that have the resources, skills, and expertise to meet that need. UVA is required to issue RFPs for requirements exceeding $200,000 annually. See Guidelines for Competition for more details.
- What is a request for information?
A request for information (RFI) is a market research tool used by a business to request information about products and/or services from industry. In turn, the business uses responses to understand the supplier base, compare supplier capabilities, and gather information on a market in a structured manner. RFIs are especially useful to research potential business partners prior to engaging in an RFP process. And RFI does not typically result in a contract. There is no value threshold for issuing an RFI.
Note: The RFI process is a streamlined process that does not result in an award. Therefore, all steps shown here do not apply to an RFI. However, general framework for Discovery, PSDS and Industry engagement is consistent.
Discuss your needs with key internal stakeholders before drafting a formal request. During these discussions, talk about broad business goals that could be met with the project and your estimated budget. You will also need to decide how you will evaluate different proposals and the top priority for your needs, such as security, speed to implementation, project functionality, etc. Ways to include diverse suppliers, namely small, women-owned, and minority (SWaM) businesses, should be material to your discussions.
Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services’ Strategic Sourcing team has the functional expertise needed to help scope, develop, and manage your requirements. The team uses Salesforce to log RFP and RFI requests to effectively oversee the progress of initiatives and maintain high visibility and reporting standards.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Request for Proposal/Information – [Name of Requirement] + [School/Dept/Unit]. In the body of the message, briefly describe the name of the requirement so it can be routed to the correct category (Services & Athletics, IT & Scientific Discovery, or Facilities Management MRO & Auxiliary Support). A team member will connect with you to discuss your requirement.
In partnership with the Strategic Sourcing team, the requestor drafts an RFP to be publicly posted. Drafting the RFP is the most important part of the process, as a well-drafted RFP is necessary to accurately describe the issues that need to be addressed. The more thorough the document is the better, as this will enable prospective suppliers to understand the problem more comprehensively while more effectively offering solutions. As part of the drafting process, the team will set clear submission instructions for suppliers, and then issue the RFP publicly.
While the RFP is posted, suppliers are given the opportunity to ask clarifying questions during a specific timeframe. Once the submission window closes, however, no additional questions will be answered.
The Strategic Sourcing team can provide RFP templates and examples to leverage during this process and sketch out a rough estimate of time to award. It is difficult to commit to a firm timeline for RFP execution, since it is largely based on the nature and complexity of the requirements, as well as the availability of resources. Here is an example of an RFP schedule.
The RFP will include scoring criteria, which could be a rubric or scoring matrix to help quantify categories based on importance to the success of the requirement. As responses are received, the evaluation committee uses the scoring matrix to objectively evaluate suppliers based on the set criterion.
The key to achieving the best contract value is effective negotiation to lock in cost and terms with the preferred supplier. The Strategic Sourcing team is well versed in negotiating contracts, and checks supplier references and reviews. Once a final determination is made, the appropriate UVA signatory will sign the contract and the Strategic sourcing team notifies the unsuccessful suppliers of the award decision.