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Request for proposal

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A Request for Proposal (RFP) is

an invitation for vendors to submit a proposal for a specific product or service. RFPs are usually designed to get vendors to provide a creative solution to a business problem or requirement.
(1) a request to the vendor community which requires submission of credential and a formal plan addressing the needs that have been set forth in the solicitation. (2) a request for vendors which invites submission of a formal plan to address the needs that have been set forth in the solicitation.[1]
used to solicit proposals from the bidding community based on a set of defined requirements. The requirements may be general in nature allowing the bidders to propose a solution and the specific products to be used. The RFP describes the problem requirements, contractual terms, and required format for the proposal responses. The RFP also includes the specific criteria which will be used to evaluate the received proposals.[2]
[a] solicitation used in negotiated acquisition to communicate government requirements to prospective contractor[s] and to solicit proposals.[3]


A Request for Proposal is a tool that can be used to facilitate the selection of a qualified service provider and assist with the contracting process.

The RFP process consists of a set of tasks that can be grouped into three major categories: development of a baseline, proposal preparation, and selection activities.

Development of a baseline

  • Determine the purpose and goal of the procurement.
  • Assign a proposal project team and an evaluation team.
  • Plan the project in terms of cost schedule, functional requirements, and resource requirements.
  • Develop a "baseline" that represents a current "as is" description of the affected environment in terms of current cost, inventory of systems, and services.
  • Develop a "needs assessment" which describes management’s assumptions on how to more effectively serve its customers.
  • Determine the future requirements by analyzing anticipated needs and project objectives.
  • Determine the disparity between the current environment and the future requirements in order to identify the gaps that need to be filled to get from the current environment to the desired environment.

The various tasks that comprise the baseline activity are designed to establish a clear picture of the goal and objective of the procurement. In addition, a detailed understanding of the current environment is typically established in order to determine if there is a gap between the current environment and future needs. Finally, this baseline understanding of cost and service levels is useful in conducting a cost/benefit or return on investment analysis.

Proposal preparation

Proposal preparation tasks are focused on defining the requirements, which are then presented in the form of a Statement of Work or similar document. The Statement of Work indicates desired services, the roles and responsibilities of each party, and the required service levels or performance standards.

Typical RFP format


  1. Michigan Dept. of Tech., Management & Budget, 8000 Glossary (Jan. 6, 1997) (full-text).
  2. California Office of Systems Integration, Definitions (full-text).
  3. Glossary of Defense Acquisition Acronyms and Term (July 2011) (full-text).


  • FDIC, Technology Outsourcing: Effective Practices for Selecting a Service Provider (June 4, 2001) (full-text).

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