Conducting an IT staffing RFP is a serious undertaking. And if you do it properly, it can take a significant amount of time. But that time is usually well spent because if you decide to go the opposite route and take short cuts, your IT staffing efforts will suffer and, as a result, the entire company will not run effectively. We’ve seen it happen many times over the years.
As an IT staffing and consulting firm, these “good” and “bad” RFP scenarios are ones we’ve been a part of on numerous occasions.
The good RFPs were well planned and organized with all the key players having a seat at the table. The bad RFPs, on the other hand, were poorly planned with irrelevant questions, poor communication, and often have internal departments running rogue in hopes of pushing their agenda through before others in the company have caught on. Those never turn out well.
Akraya was founded in 2001 and is a leader in providing IT staffing and consulting services to some of the top employers around the world. Our executive team has participated in hundreds of IT staffing RFPs and gained valuable insight into what makes them work well and what doesn’t.
(Want to learn more about Akraya's award-winning IT Staffing Service? Click here.)
What follows is our unique, comprehensive perspective on how to conduct an IT staffing RFP that gets the absolute best results possible.
RFPs are an important part of any staffing program as they help optimize the mix of staffing firms for your program. The right mix of staffing vendors can be the key to a program’s success just as the wrong mix can have negative effects across the entire organization through unfilled requirements and bad hires.
Stick to The Basics
Whether it is 10 questions or a 100, exhaustively comprehensive or simpler in structure and length, all RFPs need to convey the same information, more or less, and should have the same basic components:
General Information/Project Overview
In this section you tell prospective suppliers about your company and provide a description of the services you are seeking. As with anything, the length and amount of detail included in the overview is dependent on the size and complexity of your company and staffing needs, but remember the Scope of Work section isn’t the place for details. Here you should strive for a simple, clear description of your company and/or department, and a summarization of the project or services you are seeking.
Scope of Work/Technical Specifications
This section is your opportunity to go into detail. Provide as much information as possible that helps the proposers understand your business environment and culture and exactly what services they will be providing. You should describe your IT staffing program and what you require including skill sets and technologies. Are they staffing for only certain regions or positions? Are you looking for preferred vendors for multiple categories? What systems and software do you expect them to be proficient in and use as part of your program?
To ensure accurate and timely responses, be sure to include information that answers the following questions as required:
In this section you ask for information that will allow you to evaluate each of the suppliers. Generally it includes subsections like: general information about the supplier, financials and references; detailed information about how they would provide the services you require and a description of any programs, tools or processes they use to complete the work; information on their management and the personnel that would work for you, i.e., years of experience, education, etc. You can include mandatory requirements in this section such as size of the supplier or presence in certain locations or whatever qualities and capabilities are critically important to you.
Whether you have a separate Fee Section or include it in Supplier Qualifications, be sure to be clear on how you want suppliers to price the work and exactly what they are submitting bids for.
Some people recommend that pricing and fees be sealed and submitted separately, preferring to evaluate firms on merit only first and then compare pricing structures. Whatever you choose, be as open, detailed, and transparent as possible about your expectations and payment procedures and demand the same from your suppliers. For a more detailed overview on fees and pricing, refer to How to Handle Pricing below.
Proposal Administration, Timeline, Format, and Submission Requirements
As the heading suggests, this is where you convey the somewhat mundane but critically important information. Who is the RFP manager and company contact? What are the key due dates? Is it an electronic submission? Printed copies too? Sealed bids? When are the oral presentations? How many copies? Etc. etc. etc. Put it all in here.
The timeline for an RFP can vary but typically 60 to 90 days are rough targets depending on the scope and complexity of your situation. Here’s a sample of an RFP timeline:
RFP Release Date
September 3, 20XX
Pre-Proposal Conference Call
September 10, 20XX
Deadline for Written Questions
September 17, 20XX
September 24, 20XX
Proposal Due Dates
October 12, 20XX @ 5:00PM EST
October 12 thru 24, 20XX
Anticipated Contract Awards
November, 1 20XX
Evaluation Criteria and Selection Process
A good RFP will explain in general terms all of the evaluation factors and their relative importance, including price. Points assigned to each criterion are usually included in the RFP. This means that the proposing suppliers are aware of which items are more important than others and can tailor their solution and proposal to better meet your needs.
Finally, you have a section where you can include any other information or legal requirements that are necessary such as specific Rules Governing RFPs; Confidentiality and Public Disclosure requirements, MWBE Forms; charts, tables or other information about your company or divisions, etc. Some RFPs include T&Cs or other sample contract information. Again, tailor the RFP to your situation.
This is an easy thing to overlook or to want to forget about, but don’t. The RFP is a serious document that is going out into the business world, making sure that it is legal and accurate and contains everything it should is simply common sense. You want to represent your company in the best possible light as well as make sure you are complying with all legal requirements.
Checking with general counsel to make sure you are including what you should and not disclosing anything you shouldn’t is more than a best practice; it’s a necessity. I know it can sometimes add to the pain of the process, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t advise it. Plan for the extra time needed to consult with legal but don’t skip this key step.
Pricing is often the most important part of any RFP that is used to procure goods or services, and that includes staffing RFPs. In fact, it's a common practice that once a staffing firm returns their completed RFP, that the individuals reviewing it flip right to the pricing section, only to read the other sections if the pricing is deemed acceptable.
One question that needs to be answered before your RFP goes out is do you dictate pricing to the prospective vendors that are responding to the RFP or do you ask them for their best pricing? Both approaches are common, so the pricing approach is likely going to be dictated by your internal resources and the needs of your staffing program.
Does your program have a long history with a set budget and a rate card in place? Or maybe your program has always used a mark-up approach. Either way, if you decide to dictate pricing in your RFP, be sure to fully explain it so that the staffing vendors have a complete understanding and are able to make an educated decision on whether they can provide the service needed to support your company.
Make sure you specify whether or not your pricing includes any fees paid to an MSP or VMS provider.
Ask for Pricing
Another option is to ask the responding staffing firms to provide pricing. This can be in the form of a mark-up or a bill rate.
A mark-up means you are asking for the percentage above the temporary workers pay rate that the staffing firm will be billing you. For example, a temporary worker makes $80/hr and the mark-up is 40%. That means the staffing firm will be charging you 80 x 1.4 or $112/hr.
Be sure to also ask for the mark-up for overtime hours and also include any managed service provider (MSP) fees you will charge to the staffing suppliers so that the supplier can provide accurate pricing. You may also want to ask for multiple markups based on position or skill set. For example, the markup for technical support positions may be much different than a difficult-to-fill software engineer position.
Bill Rates are simply the hourly rate the staffing firm will charge you for each hour worked by a temporary employee. You will need to provide job descriptions so that the responding staffing firms can provide bill rates for each position.
Whatever approach you choose, be as open, detailed, and transparent as possible about your expectations and payment procedures and demand the same from your suppliers.
The information gathered as part of the planning process – current/future state analysis, the decisions about scope and budget, the input of the various stakeholders on the team – needs to make it into the document.
It’s a smart idea to tap into the knowledge on the team and involve them in writing the RFP, so consider having committee members contribute to the parts of the document pertinent to them (e.g., IT writing technical specifications for systems), or at least have each of them review the document before it goes out to ensure it asks the right questions that will garner information they can use to evaluate properly. Of course, you have to have a central manager but everyone should be responsible for ensuring that the RFP is well crafted and will elicit responses that are useful. The RFP should be developed from the planning process not in a vacuum.
So now you have a completed RFP that is ready to send out to IT staffing firms. But before you do, there are a few things to do to make sure it’s perfect. Remember, once it's been sent out, you can’t get it back. Here are the final steps.
Okay, so now it’s ready to go. But who do you send it too? You likely have some current IT staffing vendors that need to get it. That’s a no-brainer. But the goal of the RFP isn’t to simply gather answers from your current vendors. You want to see if there are other IT staffing vendors that would be a good fit for your company. So where do you find them? Here’s a few places to look.
Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA)
Most IT staffing firms are members of SIA. Simply contact SIA and they can provide you with IT staffing firms that might be a good fit for your program.
Most of the popular MSPs give out annual awards for their best staffing vendors. Popular MSPs include KellyOCG, Allegis Global Solutions, AgileOne, PRO Unlimited, Pontoon, TAPFIN, Workforce Logiq, and others. To find the award winners, simply Google “(MSP name) award winners”. This should give you a good list of a variety of staffing firms. All you need to do now is narrow it down to the IT firms and you’re all set.
Have your team members reach out to their connections and ask for referrals. If an IT staffing firm has delivered for one company, it will likely be able to deliver for yours as well.
The number of staffing firms that you need to send the RFP to depends on your company's needs. But a good estimate is to send it to three times the number of your final target list. So, if you need five IT staffing firms to meet your staffing needs, send the RFP to fifteen.
Contact each of the vendors you have selected (see section above) and reach out via phone or email. Inform them that you would like to send them an IT staffing RFP and ask who it should go to. They will likely be thrilled that you contacted them and immediately provide you with the requested information. Once you have it, send them the RFP.
Companies often have a conference call a few days, up to a week, after releasing the RFP to discuss the main points of the RFP and/or to demonstrate how to use any online tool for answering the RFP questions. If you decide to do this, we highly recommend that you follow these guidelines:
Upon receipt of the RFP, vendors will have questions. And likely a lot of them. It's important to allow vendors to get clarification as things will come up that you didn’t think to include in the RFP. Provide an email address and a deadline for asking these questions and provide a date that the answers will be returned to all vendors. This date should be approximately 2-3 weeks before the RFP responses are due back. And be sure to provide all participating vendors with all of the questions and answers.
Answering all the questions can be a lot of work so be sure to allow yourself enough time. Usually a week is good. The staffing vendors can still work on the RFP while they are waiting for the answers.
Also, it is not required that you answer all of the vendors questions. If you don’t want to provide the information, it is completely okay to reply with something along the lines of “We will not be disclosing this information for the RFP.”
The fully answered RFPs are now starting to come in from vendors. Next to putting together an RFP document, reviewing and evaluating the responses can be the most tedious and time-consuming activity associated with the RFP process. There is a lot to consider. How do you score the responses? How important is pricing? What about benefits offered by the vendor to its employees? are office locations important?
Every company has unique needs when it comes to their staffing program so it’s important to decide on your scoring criteria early on in the process so that those reviewing the completed RFPs understand how to weight each answer.
Also, be sure to include a stakeholder from each team that participated or helped with the RFP. That could include HR, a hiring manager, accounting, legal, etc. If a department was part of the creation of the RFP, they should be offered the opportunity to be part of the team that evaluates the completed RFPs.
Next, you will want to narrow the field of potential vendors. This is the stage where you want to eliminate any firms that are obviously not a fit. This will be most likely be due to the firms stated capabilities. If they aren’t able to perform the service you need, there is no need to have them continue in the selection process.
After you have decided on who to eliminate, the next step is presentations for the remaining firms. It's a good idea to have each of the selected staffing firms give a presentation based on why they should be part of your staffing program. You can give them an outline of what you would like to see in the presentation, but it also makes sense to simply let the companies decide on what to present. Either approach works and an hour is usually plenty of time. Use this time to get clarification on any outstanding question you have about any of the vendors.
You should now have enough information to select the best fit(s) for your staffing program. A simple email to the main contact is the most common way of notifying vendors they have been awarded an opportunity to sign a contract with your company. And don’t forget to thank those who participated and did not get selected.
Choosing which companies to do business with is an important task and the decisions you make can have major consequences – good or bad. If you follow these 5 basic steps in preparing your RFP, you should create a more responsive, tailored document and have a better overall selection experience – one that saves you time and gets you the right information to help you make a wise choice.
Akraya is a tier-one provider of IT talent for some of the most successful, technology-based companies in the world. We're built to provide top IT personnel within the structure of any MSP, VMS, or traditional staffing program.
Reasons you want Akraya in your program:
All of our IT Recruiters have technical degrees.
Built for speed of delivery without compromising on quality.
Comprehensive database of IT talent.
Send us a copy of your RFP once its ready. Or click here to learn more about Akraya's clients and IT staffing capabilities.