We received a Request For Proposal (RFP) from a leading Banking and Financial organization last week to deploy an enterprise wide Learning Management System. Like every other Bid Manager, I too was excited as it was a good opportunity; but my excitement soon turned into disappointment when I opened the Bid Document. It was a two page document with just a mention of different forms of learning (Elearning, Classroom Training) that they wanted to conduct through the system. Would this LMS RFP process help the organization achieve its objective of finding a suitable solution? Would this document allow a vendor to map their solution as per the organization’s true requirement? I firmly believe that the answer is “NO”. While creating a LMS RFP, one needs to provide a precise and accurate description of organization needs. The more explicit one can be, the more assistance the vendor can offer. If the needs are vague or uncertain, the proposals will be difficult to compare. The organization wants all the vendors responding to the same needs as they see it, and not as various vendors see it. Here are 10 guidelines to draft an effective LMS RFP.
A learning management system can be an enterprise solution and impact every aspect of organizational learning for years; hence it is absolutely paramount to make the correct decision. Additionally, identifying the best LMS solutions consist of many considerations: technical, instructive, administrative, and financial, just to name a few. Because of the impact and complexity of choosing an enterprise-wide learning solution, it is best to choose the selection committee carefully. Here are some individuals or departments that should be represented.
– Head Training/Learning & Development
– Information Technology Department
– Procurement Department
– Line Supervisors
– Business Unit Leaders
– Sales and Marketing Department
An outline provides a systematic method for describing organization’s needs to the vendor. A more structured requirement assists the vendor to understand the type of solution a company is seeking.
Overview of the RFP Process:
A LMS RFP should provide explicit dates for submission of the proposal, the review timeline of the proposal and dates for when the work should start and finish. The vendor must be able to clearly identify all the due dates for the proposal. A table containing key events and dates is an excellent addition to any LMS RFP.
Proposal Creation Guidance
A LMS RFP should provide guidance concerning the format of the proposal. These may seem like trivial items until one attempts to compare a five-page proposal with a 55-page proposal. One should decide ahead of time the expected submission format and then explicitly state those in the RFP. The aim is for a vendor to get an outline of what is expected in each section. This also allows organization to lay the proposals side-by-side for easy comparison.
Provide Enough Information
A Vendors needs to know more about a company’s e-learning problem, technological infrastructure, and proposed budget, along with other challenges, if any. Often clients feel that providing too much information to a vendor is dangerous as vendors may try to play around in terms of price or other considerations. However, if each vendor knows a budget range, then they will all propose a solution within that budget and you can more easily compare the proposals. Also, vendors need to know a company’s previous experience with LMS. They need to know what type of browser you are running, Application security policy from IT department and any other crucial information. Provide enough information for the vendors to make an intelligent and informed recommendation.
This is something to be very careful about while drafting the LMS RFP. In fact, everything else could be perfect in the RFP (well written, logical descriptions, proper amount of detail, imaginative, proper scope), but if the underlying need for the project is not tied to the business needs driving the company, problems can arise. This is not only dangerous from the standpoint of the LMS RFP, but without a clear business need driving the project, the entire project can be in peril. Funding may be discontinued, resources may be reallocated, and your implementation team might not be given enough time to assist with the development process. Let the vendor know the business need driving the RFP to help him come up with a solution. Since vendors must have helped various organizations implement LMS, one can use the RFP to leverage their knowledge to address your business needs.
One should involve Information Technology (IT) department in the LMS RFP writing process. Vendors need to know about internal network, hardware and software, before they can intelligently make a recommendation. Provide information on current browser version, operating system, future upgrade plans and other IT information. For the vendor to come up with a fully compliant solution, he should be absolutely aware about the IT Infrastructure. Irrespective of type of implementation, onsite- or offsite, one needs to involve IT department to understand infrastructure issues. Involving them at a later stage will impact the overall timeline of the implementation.
The LMS RFP should ask for a clear cut implementation plan and an explicit indication of what assistance the vendor offers. You should also clarify what resources you will have available during the implementation. This can help the vendor develop an appropriate implementation strategy. Let the vendor know if your organization has a history with LMS or is just getting started. This will have an impact on Deployment /Implementation timelines.
Involve your procurement people sooner rather than later. Often the procurement department has experience developing contracts and RFPs. You should take advantage of that experience and allow them to provide insight into the entire process. This will allow you to include other organizational pre-requites for vendor selection like Worker Compensation Insurance, Product indemnity etc. If you involve them early in the process, they will be a huge asset. If you involve them later in the process, they may become an obstacle.
The LMS RFP should provide explicit instructions on how company will be evaluating the proposals. All the evaluation criteria should be mentioned with their priority and percentage. If cost is number one criteria, the vendor needs to know. The explicit evaluation criteria provides the vendor with information concerning, the areas they should or should not focus.
The more accurate, up-to-date and honest you can be with vendors in the RFP process, the better proposals they will present.
Remember – Good RFPs results in Good Proposals! This is me, signing off for this post. I would be eager to hear your thoughts and views. What according to you is the most essential ingredient in an LMS RFP?