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What does it take to create a good RFP for a new data system?

Sorry, your data system will not perform as desired forever. Requirements, technology, expectations all change. Even with the best maintenance, your data system will eventually become antiquated. Replacing it may require a Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit interested vendors. And even if the new data system is built in-house, developing data system specifications that would otherwise be in an RFP is critical.

A PowerPoint presentation from our 2016 Improving Data, Improving Outcomes conference, What Does It Take to Create a Good RFP for a New Data System? provides insight and suggestions for planning and developing an RFP so that the resulting data system supports the data demands of your program. The two presentation authors have been on all sides of requests for proposals (RFP): authors of RFPs, reviewers of proposals responding to RFPs, and authors of proposals responding to RFPs. In this presentation, they provide suggestions for creating a good RFP for a new data system.

The RFP for a new data system sets in motion the eventual blueprint, specifications, and contractual obligation to support the new data system. Budgeting necessary upfront time to write a good RFP greatly increases the likelihood that the resulting data system will function as expected and stay on budget. Moreover, a good RFP minimizes risks of time delays, functionality gaps, budget increases, dissatisfaction with vendor, dissatisfaction with project management, and a dissatisfied customer base.

The presentation addresses these and more steps for a good RFP:

  • Focus on the ends, not the means. An RFP should not overly restrict how the data system processes data. Instead, focus the RFP on desired functionality.
  • The resource for planning a new data system is DaSy Data System Framework.
  • Work with procurement. Ask open ended questions, e.g., “How can we ____?”
  • Write flexibility into the RFP —- things inevitably change.
  • Secure and study examples of good system RFPs from your agency, state and from other states that secured something similar.
  • Include in the RFP what your expected (and realistic) budget range is and realistic time frames.
  • Establish what is required and what is desired in the RFP.
  • Think through your response to the proposals generated from the RFP. How will you calibrate and train reviewers?

It takes time and effort to write a good RFP for a new data system. It can easily take a year or more. Add another year for designing, developing, testing and deploying the new data system. Plus, the time for RFP posting, reviewing proposals, contracting . . . you can’t start too early in the new data system securement process!

DaSy has assisted numerous states with their RFP development. While DaSy can’t write RFPs, we can review draft RFPs and provide guidance. If you’d like to explore what RFP technical assistance DaSy might provide your Part C or Part B 619 program, contact your State Technical Assistance Liaison.