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Book Review: The Art of Creating a Quality RFP


“When you prepare an RFP, your goal is to elicit responses that meet all of your requirements so that you can move efficiently to awarding the contract and implementing the systems you need. But only a quality RFP will get quality responses. Not surprisingly, bad RFPs bring in bad responses.” (p. 13)


The Art of Creating a Quality RFP (PSM Advantage, 2014) serves as a valid reminder that if we don’t approach every task we undertake as valuable, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to do our best work before we have even begun. This book, written by career practitioners and consultants George Borden and Steve Jeffery, captures the ups and downs of decades in procurement. By focusing almost exclusively on the Request for Proposal (RFP) they are able to achieve clarity of purpose and message and cover a lot of ground in a compact book.

The strategic sourcing process is desperately in need of a spark of something new. We’ve been following the same processes for so long, we’ve stopped thinking about them. And by allowing the process to become rote, we reduce the likelihood that the process will be dynamic or flexible.

The thing about art – and this does apply to writing better RFP’s, trust me – is that there needs to be a little bit of mystery, skill, expression, and imagination. Procurement needs to enter a project, engage stakeholders in the right way, and then take the time they need to convert collected knowledge into a document capable of facilitating the business’ objectives. While procurement often faces resistance from stakeholders who do not want to commit time and effort, the final RFP should make perfectly clear ‘what we were doing all that time.’ Procurement should be willing to insist upon having the time we need to do the job right, confident that the finished product will be worth the wait.

And speaking of time, I could not agree more with the authors’ assertion that sometimes the best RFP is the result of an RFI. They can be amazing little events, when run right, and not only improve but potentially speed up the RFPs that follow them.

This book is solution agnostic. In fact, it does not assume that an eSourcing solution is in place. It includes worthwhile templates and sample communication that will save time and improve the quality of RFPs. There are no applicability limitations in terms of industry or spend category, and the authors’ advice about managing suppliers, stakeholders, and executives will scale from the most modestly sized organization to the largest.

The Art of Creating a Quality RFP is a worthwhile read for practitioners looking to improve internal processes and results, consultants charged with leading transformation efforts at clients, and suppliers who use the RFPs they receive as a way of identifying customers of choice.

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