Tired of the same familiar faces? Start an RFP academy
Do all of your RFP committees look the same? When was the last time you saw a new face on your committee? The reason might be that you tend to ask the same people over and over to serve as committee members.
Traditionally we ask the end-user, a financial person, an operating or engineering type, perhaps an administrator, and a few good people who can think and evaluate. The problem is that we are running out of a “few good people.” Or are we? Is it because they have served on committees before and know the process and what it is supposed to achieve? Or is it that they are overworked in their own departments and decline serving? You can only go to the well so often until the well dries up.
How do you solve this problem? One answer is to create an RFP Academy. Start to identify potential candidates throughout your organization. Look for the character traits that make a good committee member. Ask around, take recommendations from everyone involved with the process. Don’t limit yourself to the standard committee members.
The RFP is the most flexible purchasing method we have. It is based on evaluated, pre-determined criteria and involves a great deal of rational thought and discussion. At the very best, it’s an intellectual exercise; at the worst, it’s paperwork-laden and time-consuming. Being a committee member isn’t for everyone. Make a list of what you want your ideal committee members to bring to the table. They should have the ability to think, to work with people, no hidden agenda, evaluative skills and perhaps a technical skill that would assist you to make a decision.
I would recommend a half-day training seminar for potential candidates. Most people can fit a half day into their schedule and still get their own work done. Find the most comfortable training room in your building, get your best purchasing people to conduct the training, and prepare a list of topics to cover. Serve coffee and tea and give them a few breaks during the training. Give the students a workbook with an outline of subjects covered, important guidelines, and copies of appropriate documents, including your Freedom of Information Law. Confidentiality of RFP materials and discussions are an integral part of the process, and it would help if the students saw the legal basis for it.
Start with the basic premise of an RFP. Explain its flexibility and how a scope of work is determined. Teach them how evaluation criteria are written and what the four basic criteria are. Give them your definition of “Demonstration of qualifications and prerequisites, experience, understanding of the requirements of the RFP, ability to fund the project, and price.” Have a sample RFP to use as a training aid. Show them what makes an RFP work and what doesn’t work.
If you are working on an RFP at the time of training, let the candidates sit in as observers and let them experience first-hand how the document is drafted and the thought process behind it. Explain to them why the RFP was selected as the appropriate purchase method.
Take them through a sample evaluation criteria discussion and show them the pitfalls and strengths of the process. Everyone learns from experience. Perhaps it would be worth your while to have an experienced RFP committee member attend your training session — someone not from purchasing, but from an operating department. This will give the candidates a different viewpoint and will add to your training.
Once you have finished your training, create a diploma. There are plenty of formats available on the Internet. Scan in your department or organization seal and make sure to put in the candidate’s name. Notify your training people in Human Resources and have a copy put in the personnel files. Ask HR about filing for CEU credit for the course. Don’t print the diploma on ordinary paper. There are good vellum papers available at a nominal cost.
Good luck and let me know how it works out for you. I love it when we can get more people to understand our processes and how we work.
It’s all part of good customer service. And remember, customer service only works when it is of value to the customer.
Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO, is a retired purchasing officer who has held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org