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RFxtravaganza


 

It’s 6:18 PM on a dark and stormy Tuesday, the last mail shipment of the day goes out at 6:30 PM – 12 minutes. The office bullpen smells of warm paper with a hint of toner. There are little circles of paper, errantly throwing themselves from the electric hole punch, scattered about the floor…the cleaning crew will not be amused. You see your coworker frantically walk from desk to printer, desk to printer, desk to printer. Is this the opening scene of a new, albeit incredibly dull, horror movie? Nope. It’s just the day before an RFx is due.


What is an RFx?

That was definitely a ridiculous introduction to a blog post; however, if you’ve ever been involved in the RFx response process, it might sound eerily familiar.

When a buyer, such as a county or state agency, needs a good or service, they will often release an RFx. This process allows buyers to receive information from vendors that may not have been readily available online or in a catalogue. The buyer will release a document (or more often than not, a number of documents) that details the needs of the agency and interested vendors will submit proposals. Essentially, the buyer says “we need x,y,z – show us whatchya got”. The RFx creation and response processes are extensive, but can provide great opportunities for both buyers and vendors alike.

But what is an RFx? Per the all-knowing Wikipedia, “RFX, which is one of the most common acronyms in the strategic sourcing and procurement landscape, is a catch-all term that captures all references to Request for Information (RFI), Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Quote (RFQ), and Request for Bid (RFB)”. Simply put, it stands for “Request for _____”. There are some other variations in addition to RFI/RFP/RFQ, too, but this is mostly what we respond to here at Aeon Nexus.

RFI vs. RFP vs. RFQ

RFI

What: request for information
When: An RFI is released when agencies are just looking for some information on products/capabilities and are generally not interested in awarding anything at the moment, but they want to gather some information before releasing an RFP or RFQ.
Why: An RFI allows the buyer to collect intel and get feedback on their project without committing.

RFP

What: request for proposal
When: An RFP is released when an agency has a problem it needs to solve (ex – how can we automate our case management process?), but needs input from interested vendors to reach the best solution. RFPs are the most formal of the bunch.
Why: An RFP allows the buyer to competitively assess multiple solutions.

RFQ

What: request for quote
When: An RFQ is released when an agency is looking for mostly pricing info. The buyer knows what it wants, but needs to figure out how much it will actually cost.
Why: An RFQ allows the buyer to compare apples-to-apples cost information.

Tips

Writing an RFx response can be a challenge for any company. You know your company has what it takes to successfully implement the solution for which a buyer is asking, but it takes a lot of planning and effort to convey that on paper to convince them. I’ve barely touched on the nuances of the RFx process in this post and I’m certainly not an expert, but I have been spearheading our RFx efforts for a while now. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you from getting overwhelmed and ending up in the facetious situation at the top of this page.

  • Know Where to Look: There are a number of free and paid websites that help vendors find procurement opportunities (BidSync, FedBizOpps, etc.). It’s important to have a list of search sites that you can check once or twice a week for new RFx that may be of interest to your company.
  • Know What to Look For: You’re never going to find something to bid on if you don’t even know where to start. Having a list of search terms (case management, CRM, 311, etc.) that are relevant to your company’s core products/services makes it a breeze to search procurement sites.
  • Know Your Deadlines: The RFx process is highly deadline driven. There are often deadlines for intents to submit, questions, pre-proposal conferences, and the proposal response itself. We’ve learned the hard way that if your response is even a minute late, no matter the reason, it’s going straight in the trash. So be cognizant of when things are due so your team’s hard work isn’t wasted!
  • Know Your Limits: Quality proposals take time. If there is a tight turnaround for a response, make an effort to assess how realistic it is pull together a winning response. If you don’t think there’s enough time, or there are other solid leads in progress, don’t be afraid to pass on it. Submitting one high quality response is often more lucrative than submitting five lower quality ones.
  • Stay Organized: Creating an RFx response is a project and like any other project, it requires clear goals, timelines, and resource allocation. Take the time to break the response into smaller tasks and assign them to the proper resource. There are a bunch of project management tools out there, but we use Teamwork.com which provides a tangible way to measure and assess our progress.
  • Be Persistent: If you need a resource to fill in a 500-row response matrix, and you want to avoid the last-minute run around, pester them until the job is done. Likewise, once you submit your proposal (cue the submittal happy dance), be sure to follow up with the agency’s procurement manager, as RFx regulations allow. Showing that your company is eager and open to providing further information, or a demo, never hurts.

 

Note: That fun little graphic up there is from RFP365.



 AeonNexus

Aeon Nexus Corporation
(518) 708-8971 / (866) 252-1251
138 State Street
Albany, NY 12207
www.aeonnexus.com