Technology
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Building a response to an RFP can be very tedious depending on the complexity and scale of the RFP. A lot of organizations struggle when submitting a proposal to the RFP. Missing out on documenting critical information and you could end up getting disqualified. Bidding in an RFP can be a very lucrative business but without proper experience or a consulting partner you’re sure to enter a dark room full of surprises.

Introduction

The most critical part which you need to take care of is that you follow the plain instructions mentioned in the RFP. Just follow the documentation format mentioned in the RFP and refrain yourself from doing anything fancy and you’re good to go. Although submitting a business proposal to an RFP is a time consuming process which can stretch from two weeks to as long as 7 months or may be more but I’ve tried to outline the process of responding or submitting a business proposal in accordance with the RFP in 10 high level steps.

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RFP Tender Consulting

1. Capturing The Details

This is one of the key steps which will lay a strong foundation of the whole process. You need to understand the customer’s sentiment at the time of writing that chunky book, capture how the customer is envisaging their network to be. Do your homework on who the customer is? What is the ask of the RFP? How old is the RFP? When is the bid submission? What is the bid value? Are the timelines achievable? Are the payment terms acceptable? And many more… once you have these answers in place then only you would be in a position to align your resources to a specific bid.

2. Review The RFP

There are a lot of ways with which you can review the RFP and it totally depends on organization to organization on which protocol do they follow. Our personal Favorite is IACB: as short as it sounds, it is very comprehensive task which ensures that you capture even the tiniest of details mentioned in the RFP. IACB process requires you to go through the whole RFP which you plotted in an excel file and mark all of the clauses with any of the letter I, A, C or B (whichever is applicable to them).

IACB

Now what do these characters stand for:

        I – Information

  • It is nothing but good to know information which RFP explains. It won’t have any effect on your solution and can be ignored to some extent but it can’t be deemed useless. This type of clauses will help you envision the functionality which the customer is demanding and therefore provide an optimal and well suited solution.

        A – Action

  • This type of clause refers to an action which you need to take on a specific clause which could relate to may be factoring extra professional services for any component, provisioning any equipment or spares from day 1, etc.

        C – Compliance

  • Compliance clause would contain the technical and function requirements which needs to be adhered to by the components which you’ll be positioning in your proposal

        B – BoQ

  • BoQ stands for Bill of Quantity. There would be few tricky clauses in the RFP which would imply on buying additional device to meet or comply with the given clause.

It is not necessary that one clause can have only one characteristic of the IACB, any clause could have mix and match of any of the characteristic. You need to go through these clauses slowly and carefully because this process would help you separate the clauses into different categories and help you build a proper solution factoring all the hidden requirements of the RFP.

3. Sending Queries To The Customer

The old saying “Customer is always right” doesn’t fly around every time. A lot of times customer also commits mistake while writing an RFP. For example, there could be instances where customer has not clearly specified the requirement and that specific clause could mean either you end up buying a $100,000 device to be compliant or buy a $40,000 device, big difference yeah!

So the best practice to go around this bit is that if your team feels that there’s a better solution which could be offered according to current market standards, if there’s a clause which is unclear and could land you in a position where you start bloating your bid, or if there’s any other OEM which offers a good and cheap solution but is non-compliant because of one or two odd clauses then send your queries to the customer.

Ensure that you do a couple of rounds of discussion internally and list out all the queries and then send a consolidated list of queries to the customer and request the customer to either provide clarification on your doubt or amend any clause if necessary.

4. Get Your PQs & TQs In Place

There’ll be a dime a dozen OEMs for any specific component of the RFP who will claim that they’re solution is compliant and is in accordance with the RFP requirements. Ensure to collect all the Pre-Qualification and Technical-Qualification documents mentioned in the RFP from OEMs to avoid any roadblock in the end. Once you get the PQs and TQs in place then it’s going to be a smooth road ahead in making the technical documentation.

5. Closing The Technical Documentation

Technical documentation is probably the biggest portion of the RFP which you need to furnish at the time of proposal submission. To build a solid full proof solution, that’s optimized, accurate and 100% compliant, which does not create any problem in future you need to get the following documentation in place:

Compliance & Cross-Reference

  • Every compliance clause in the RFP has to be provided with a cross-reference and a supporting document. The best practice to go around this is that every cross-reference document that you provide should have the specific line highlighted in it with a highlighter tool and the excel file with compliance clauses in it shall have the exact page number of the PDF file where compliance is specified. This would make documentation validation easier for the customer and make you one of the preferred bidders.

Hardware Sizing

  • This document helps you in calculating the CPU, RAM, Storage, type of disks, OS & DB licenses required for you to position your solution. Hardware sizing is very crucial as it rules out the risk of not factoring the right amount of licenses and hardware resources required to host the applications of your solution.

Power Infra Requirement

  • Passive side of the solution can also create a huge impact on cost. You would need to collate all the information like power consumption, airflow, dimension of the device, heat dissipation, power cable connector type, number of PDUs required, all this information will help you come up with an appropriate passive infra of Rack, DG sets, air conditioning, etc.

Solution Document

  • A solution document is a bible which describes how the proposed solution will work at a high level. It shall consist of the introduction of the RFP, a brief summary of what has been asked in the RFP, what we’re providing in accordance with the RFP and contains write-up on all the technologies involved and professional services involved in the tender.

6. Latest Docs As Per Corrigendum

During the process of bidding, customer would release a corrigendum which has all the queries answered in it. There can be N number of corrigendum release depending on the scale and complexity of RFP. Your solution may vary according to the subsequent corrigendum and self-clarifications. It is advisable to have the updated technical documents to avoid last minute surprises.

7. The Hidden BoQ

As discussed above there would be a lot of hidden requirements which you might arrive at while building the solution. IACB process will ensure that you do not miss out on extra BoQ mentioned in any of the functional or technical requirements.  A bullet proof hardware sizing sheet will ensure that you factor the correct amount of servers and licenses. If you follow these two blindly then there would slim to none chance of you missing out any critical detail.

8. Optimize On Cost

Only technically fit solution will not get you there!!! The solution has to be technically fit as well as cost effective. You need to find small holes which you can fill in to lower the overall cost of the solution. The usual places where you can optimize on solution is on SFPs, cables, disks, etc.

So, how it can be optimized? You need to trust the consultant / OEM whom you’re collaborating with. Ask for their assistance and they would guide you if their application does not require fast caching and is supported on inexpensive disks. Go in for Digital Active-Optical Assembly Cable (DAC) wherever you can, it will save you a lot of cost and not to overkill with expensive SFPs.

9. Professional Services Cost

Once you’ve closed all the above points, the last milestone left is to cover is the professional services. Few examples of professional services are:

  • Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC)
  • Training services
  • Network audits
  • Network optimization
  • Planning, designing and implementation of the infrastructure, etc.

Please factor in cost accordingly for the man power and services that are asked for the specific time duration.

10. Stitching It All Together

Once you’ve gone through all the above steps, all you need to do is stitch and submit your proposal. Your proposal would basically include:

  •         Introduction of your company
  •         PQs and TQs of your organization and all the OEMs involved
  •         Technical documentation
  •         Proposal
  •         Prices

They say that the best way to eat an elephant is by eating it one bite at a time. Stitching a bid together and building a proposal can be a very time consuming and exhaustive task. So the best way to eat this elephant is by moving one step at a time. I hope this article was helpful. Thanks!

Zindagi Consulting Services

We, at Zindagi Technologies, have a team of expert consultants from distinct technologies background who carries a cumulative consulting experience of over 100 years. We’ve collaborated with a lot of organizations and helped them in stitching together a winning proposal. To fix up a consulting engagement with our team or to collaborate on any project, you can write to us at [email protected] or you can reach out to us at +91 7678682775.

About the Author

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Sumit Yadav
Consulting Engineer