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How to wire an RFP in your favor based on your staffing

Recommendations you can make about RFP requirements and how it impacts your competitive positioning


You can't wire an RFP. But you can make recommendations that result in changes to an RFP that work in your favor. The customer is responsible for determining whether those recommendations meet their needs. Here are some recommendations you might consider making. Every one of the topics below has two perspectives that amount to the "haves" and "have nots." For simplicity and brevity, the items below are written from the perspective of the "haves." If on any particular bid you are one of the "have nots" simply reverse the recommendations.

For service contracts, many of the RFP requirements focus on staffing. Here are some areas of staffing in which you might want to consider making RFP recommendations.

  • Key personnel. The more positions you provide names for and are obligated to deliver, the harder it will be. If you have the staff to name, you have the advantage. A clever twist on this is the RFP that permits the bidder to decide how many people should be key combined with evaluation criteria that reward having sufficient key personnel to ensure a lack of disruption of services or ability to meet the project size, scope, and complexity or capacity requirements. 
  • Turnover. Most turnover reporting is a lie. Companies play on subjective distinctions like “voluntary” and “involuntary” turnover. However, reporting the total positions on the projects cited as past performance and the total number of people who have filled them or have billed to the project in any form over its life make it harder to lie. It also makes it harder to bid. But if you have exceptionally low turnover it can make your competitors look bad if your customer agrees that turnover is important to them and that this is a better way to report it.
  • Staff years of experience. Whatever experience the staff you intend to propose have is what you want the requirement to be. You don’t want anyone with less to be able to bid. Any requirement for more is just restricting competition and raising costs. The same generally applies to degrees, certifications, and other qualification requirements. Use the exact same approach for corporate years of experience.
  • Data reporting. The more data you have to supply about the staff you are proposing, the more challenging it is to write the proposal. Especially when you don’t have the staff. So years, numbers, skills, etc. broken by SOW requirement or other category can show a competitor’s lack of coverage.
  • Identifying staff provided by subcontractors. If your competitors will be a small business prime dwarfed by a large company subcontractor, then having them identify the employer of the staff provided will show this to the customer. If the customer is concerned that the small business prime is not really going to be in charge, then they might be receptive to a requirement like this. Combine it with evaluation criteria that require the prime to explain how they will manage subcontractor staff, or an evaluation of whether the staffing presented reflects the roles of the companies supporting the bid.
  • Training. If your staff have specialized training or your company has a training program, then a requirement for staff training is to your advantage. You can compound this with requirements to have training during onboarding or prior to start and for ongoing training. Combine it with an evaluation of the extensiveness of this training and of the curriculum coverage. It can be particularly troublesome for your competitors to write curriculum descriptions for training related to the customer’s legacy systems.
  • Legacy systems. If you have experience with the legacy systems, make sure the RFP requires all the acronyms. And integration plans, architectures, technology transition plans, data flow analysis, etc. that would require a competitor to demonstrate that they know internal details about the legacy systems that they can’t possibly know.
  • Depth and breadth of staffing. Does the project require the contractor to have backup staff, staffing pools, or lots of similar staff in order to provide skills coverage, meet peaks and valleys, etc.? Or does the project require a lot of staff in different areas? Or both. Each is a different challenge for your competitors and can be difficult to demonstrate.
  • Staff transition. Recruiting, certification/accreditation, and onboarding within the transition period can be high-risk activities. Companies often rely on retaining incumbent staff. A requirement that a competitor demonstrate their ability to staff the project without using incumbent staff, especially if they have to name names, can be challenging. Another option would be to require a recruiting plan in the event that incumbent staff are not retained. Market assessments that show how the size of the labor market and pay rates are assessed for recruiting risk can also be quite challenging to create. Also, requiring the transition schedule to show the timing of staff onboarding related to transition activities with an evaluation criteria that take into consideration the risk of staff not being ready on time and how it would impact the transition is very difficult to address.
  • Teaming agreements. A requirement to cite any workshare or staffing obligations can put the competition on the spot. Combine this with evaluation criteria that assess whether these obligations introduce risk of disruption or conflict with the proposed approaches.
  • Double counting staffing during evaluation. Staffing can be addressed as a separate evaluation criterion. The qualifications or ability of staff to perform can also be evaluated as a technical subfactor. And the staffing transition, recruiting, onboarding, training, allocation, teaming, and more can all be evaluated as management subfactors. Resumes can be evaluated separately. Experience of staffing can be evaluated in multiple places. When staffing is effectively evaluated in multiple subfactors, it makes it difficult to score highly when you don’t have the staff, and it’s hard to make up a lower staffing score with a high score somewhere else.

If you have the staff, these will give you some ideas for requirements to recommend to the customer. If you don’t have the staff, these will give you some ideas for requirements to recommend against or counter requirements to recommend to the customer. If you are the customer, set your priorities according to your needs and realize that all those reasonable sounding recommendations have an agenda behind them.

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