CWS 3.0: June 27, 2012


Strategy: How to Get the Most out of Your RFP

A common mistake contingent workforce managers make when conducting a request-for-proposal (RFP) for a contingent workforce partner (e.g., vendor management system (VMS), managed service program (MSP), payrolling or independent contractor compliance (ICC) is not conducting a thorough gap analysis to the current program and utilizing it to clearly articulate the desired future state before releasing requirements to the market.  It is critical to understand where your program is today, in order to understand where it is headed in the future. By pinpointing current gaps or needs, a program begins to design its company’s culturally relevant future state and identifies specific requirements a new solution will be required to address; as opposed to just vaguely stating “We know we can do this better.” 

Your company should understand its program’s key issues, future state desires and prioritize requirements before asking suppliers to propose solutions and pricing. Having a thought-out future state design will enable you to write an RFP specific to real needs and allow for suppliers to propose quality, custom-designed solutions instead of generic ones or ones laden with assumptions. RFPs that contain generic questions receive generic answers and force the company to compare suppliers instead of comparing solutions to their requirements.

You should also feel comfortable including in your RFP a Program Scope document that helps to explain these key requirements, or critical success factors, and their future state program vision.  In the past, some companies have worried about sharing too much or exposing known issues their company faces to suppliers; however, this type of information is critically important for a supplier to know so that it can propose solutions to resolve those issues.  

Today’s market is full of niche and robust suppliers with varying solutions and abilities; in order to best explore the most appropriate supplier solutions and increase competitive bidding and pricing, companies need to be able to articulate and share a clear vision of what their requirements are.

Upfront program analysis has consistently shown increased RFP quality, efficiency and cost savings. The time spent in the early planning stages can help reduce potential re-work, clarify supplier or stakeholder assumptions and eliminate ambiguity. 

Erika Halverson is an associate at Brightfield Strategies LLC (, which helps Fortune 500 companies with contingent workforce strategy initiatives. She can be reached at


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