The Request for Proposal (RFP)

The request for proposal (RFP) is part of a formal process of competitively tendering and hiring a research supplier. If the process is undertaken by a public sector organization or large corporation, the process can be extremely strict with set rules regarding communication between client and potential suppliers, the exact time when the proposal must be submitted, the number of copies to be provided, etc. Proposals that required thousands of hours of preparation have been refused for being one minute late (see this article)!

The RFP usually sets out the objectives or client’s information requirements and requests that the proposal submitted by the potential supplier include:

  1. A detailed research methodology with justification for the approach or approaches proposed;
  2. Phasing or realistic timelines for carrying out the research;
  3. A detailed quotation by phase or task as well as per diem rates and time spent for each researcher participating in the execution of the work;
  4. The qualifications of each participating researcher and a summary of other projects each person has been involved in to demonstrate past experience and expertise

The client should provide the potential suppliers with the criteria for selection and the relative weight assigned to each one, to assist suppliers in understanding where trade-offs might need to be made between available budget and importance. These criteria also allow the supplier to ensure that all areas deemed important by the client have been addressed as part of the proposal.

At times, clients ask a short-listed number of suppliers to present their proposed methodology during an interview, which allows for probing by the client but also discussion as to the advantages and disadvantages associated with the research design that is proposed.