Streamlined Procurements: What Should Be in Your RFP?
While there are some flexibilities, depending on the type of contract (e.g., time and materials, cost plus fixed fee), the majority of contracts are firm fixed price (FFP). To achieve the most realistic pricing, particularly for FFP contracts, federal entities should recognize that the burden of risk is on the bidder, who must factor in all possible costs for the duration of the work.
The key to a smooth procurement — without responding to hundreds of clarification questions — is to build an RFP that includes a thorough description of all aspects of the work. It should cover the objectives or goals, locations, personnel requirements, level of effort (e.g., hours per labor category), performance measurements and expectations, required quality control measures, and other details that help bidders respond with an appropriate technical approach and realistic pricing that reasonably captures the likely costs.
The specific information bidders need will vary. As an example, we have listed the information that we find essential when responding to RFPs for the services Management Concepts provides.
The following items are needed to estimate training costs accurately:
- Name of course and description (including topic and objectives)
- What type of course, such as commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), government off-the-shelf (GOTS), a customized course based on either COTS or GOTS, new course (which requires development)
- Duration of the course (e.g., hours, half-day, days)
- Modality (in-person instructor-led, virtual, remote, or blended, webinar, podcast, etc.) – If the course will be virtual, are there any restrictions on the type of delivery system used?
- The number of participants in the course
- Location (city and state) of the training (if in-person training); It is best to allow contractors to invoice for travel expenses to avoid high enough estimates to prevent losses related to travel on fixed-price contracts
- The number of course deliveries
- Requirement for continuing education units, credits, or college credits, if desired
- Minimum qualifications for instructors (e.g., degrees, certifications, years and fields of experience, years of adult learning experience)
- Type and quantity of training materials required (e.g., student guides, workbooks, etc.)
- Quality control measures desired
For building an accurate proposal for coaching services, the following information is essential:
- Objectives for the engagement
- Minimum qualifications for coaches (e.g., ICF certification level, years of coaching experience, years of experience in a certain field)
- Specify individual or group coaching
- The number of participants and their levels (e.g., new supervisors, experienced managers, senior executives)
- The number of coaching sessions per person and the length of each session
- Amount of prep time allowed for each coaching session (e.g., half-hour)
- Describe any assessments needed (e.g., OPM 360, etc.), how many (every coach participant, a certain number of participants, etc.), and when the assessment should be conducted
- If there will also be training or group skills enhancement activities, describe the activities, the goals for each activity, the number of participants, where the events will occur, and how often. Also, if a moderator is required, indicate any qualification requirements for the moderator
- If coaching is to be provided in person, list the city and state for each coaching assignment, including the quantity per location (participants, number of sessions, duration of sessions)
- Indicate contractor’s ability to invoice for travel costs
- Describe any quality control measures desired
Management Concepts offers human capital advisory services such as organizational performance, leadership development, organizational development, change management, evaluation and assessments, gap analyses (performance and training), and a host of learning technology solutions (e.g., learning portals, virtual classroom services, and instructional design.
For these kinds of services, the following details are needed to build an accurate cost estimate:
- Describe the type of work thoroughly
- List the objectives and goals of the project
- Indicate the labor categories or position titles and qualification requirements (e.g., degrees, certifications, fields of experience, and years therein)
- Indicate the number of hours required for each labor category or position for the duration of the project
- If the work must be done outside the contractor’s location, list the city and state, type of location (e.g., agency headquarters), frequency of time at the location (e.g., hours per week, once a month, etc.), and purpose of the work at that location (e.g., status meeting, etc.)
- Describe any quality control measures desired
Providing all of the details needed to develop a comprehensive proposal with accurate pricing is important for many reasons. When bidders fully understand RFP requirements, they can better determine whether or not a specific opportunity is within their capacity. And, the number of hours that will be needed to field bidder inquiries will be significantly reduced. Furthermore, the proposals received will be easier to compare because they will be based on the same requirements, again reducing the burden of proposal reviews (and the potential for bid protests).
Need to brush up on your RFP skills? We can help! Check out these courses.
Maja Roberts is Proposal Director at Management Concepts. She has more than 20 years of experience building and managing proposal departments, producing 20 to 250 proposals annually, with values ranging from $1M to $300M. Maja has extensive experience managing the entire life cycle of business development, including identifying potential opportunities to build pipelines valued at over $7B, developing teaming relationships, creating and managing proposal processes and systems, and writing winning bids to government organizations and commercial entities. She holds an Associate of Science in Business Administration degree from Northern Virginia Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from George Mason University.