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