Selecting an LMS can be a difficult decision. It requires time and resources, so you want to make sure you choose the best LMS the first time. RFPs (requests for proposals) aren’t always popular with Learning Management System (LMS) buyers or suppliers.
The disfavour with which they are viewed is often the result of encounters with too many badly-written RFPs. Besides, a well-written RFP can play a vital role in matching your organization with the LMS that best suits its needs and budget. In this article, I’ll share 10 elements to include in your LMS RFP that will let you rock your LMS selection process.
This article was originally published in 2017.
LMS RFP: 10 Tips for Rocking Your Selection Process
What is an RFP?
RFPs are requests for vendors to submit a detailed proposal or bid to provide a service or commodity. They’re usually used for higher-value purchases because they can require a significant amount of work to prepare, respond to and evaluate.
The first thing you have to know to prepare an effective LMS RFP is whether you really do want to request proposals. RFPs are often confused with Requests for Information (RFIs) and Requests for Quotes (RFQs).
Contents of your LMS RFP
Every RFP will look a bit different, but when you’re looking for an LMS the following sections are key:
1. Table of Contents
The Table of Contents is a common place to start, and for a good reason. The easier it is for your vendors to find and understand what you need, the more likely they are to offer a valuable proposal.
2. Company Information
Start by briefly introducing yourself.
3. Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
You may want to include a non-disclosure agreement. The foundation of any successful RFP is a thorough description of your business needs, and those needs may not be for public consumption.
Additionally, you might find it valuable to provide vendors with samples of current courseware or other material that you would like to keep contained.
4. Summary of Your Business Case
A summary of your LMS business case will tell vendors what your business need is and how you expect them to meet it. This is essential information if they are to prepare an effective plan for you. Also, vendors who fully understand why you need an LMS might have the experience and creativity to propose a more effective solution to your business problem than your business case recommends.
5. Training requirements List
The RFP should include a single section listing must-have and nice-to-have LMS features, functions and requirements. Many RFPs get into trouble here. People see the feature lists of various LMSs and think, “That sounds great! We need it!” Yes, the feature may be great, but do you really need it? Here are 7 tips for choosing the best LMS for your organization.
When developing a requirement list, give careful thought to what you really need and whether it’s truly a need or just a nice-to-have. Once you’ve produced a list that’s as short as you can make it, set it aside for a while. Then come back to it and ruthlessly pare it down again. The disadvantages of overstating your needs are significant, limiting and expensive:
To get the best response from your vendors, it’s best to have all requirements listed together. Vendors not only waste time but risk missing things when requirements are scattered through the document. An RFP is no place for a scavenger hunt, and the contest should be between LMSs, not the vendors’ document management skills.
6. Your Budget
It’s not unusual to prefer to keep budgetary information close to your chest, but disclosing your project budget can be beneficial to the RFP process. Some people fear that vendors will bump their bids up to the limits of the budget if they have the opportunity. In practice, this is unlikely because vendors are very aware that an RFP is a competitive process and cost is one of the items they’ll be competing on.
Knowing your budget will allow vendors to put their time and effort into developing proposals that you can afford, rather than ones you can’t.
7. Selection Criteria
This is another RFP element that causes surprise (and sometimes consternation). Do you really want to publicize your scoring matrix? Yes, in fact you do.
Your selection criteria define what’s most important to your organization, and that’s vital information for a vendor seeking to meet your needs. Should they offer you minimal support at the lowest price point possible, or should they charge more to oversee your implementation?
8. Special Terms
If you have any special terms, like a contract you will require the vendor to use or specific terms of payment, include them up front in the RFP. The last thing you want is for you and the vendor to work through the RFP process, the selection phase and get to work on an agreement only for everything to fall apart at the eleventh hour because of an unexpected requirement.
9. Submission Format
Establishing a format for proposals will make your job a lot easier when it comes to evaluating submissions. You don’t want to be stuck trying to compare a three-page requirement checklist to a 45-page written document. Put some serious thought into the format you will require:
10. RFP Process
Maintain control of the process by creating thoughtful timelines and sticking to them. Vendors will need to know when:
If it’s absolutely impossible to stick to the original timeline, create a new timeline and inform all participating vendors of the change as soon as possible.
Some organizations prefer not to accept vendor questions during the RFP process as they can be very time-consuming to respond to. However, the value of responding to questions is usually worth the time it takes. Better-informed vendors better understand your needs and are able to craft more appropriate proposals.
In this article, I wrote 10 elements to include to write a successful LMS RFP. If you’d like to do more research about the LMS RFP or RFPs in general, here are some sites to start you off:
A key tip to take with you is that in an RFP, more information is almost always better. Vendors can produce the best proposals when they are well informed about your needs and requirements.
Download our RFP eBook to create a succinct, well-written RFP!