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LMS RFP: 10 Tips for Rocking Your Selection Process

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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.

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).

RFI

A Request for Information may be issued in the early stages of procurement, when you’re not entirely clear on all your requirements . It’s issued in an effort to learn more about suppliers and what they can offer. If the organization decides to go ahead, the RFI is usually followed by either an RFQ or RFP.

RFQ

Requests for Quotes are used when an organization has decided to purchase simple or standardized products or services. They’re appropriate when detailed discussions with vendors are not necessary and price will be the primary vendor selection criterion.

RFP

Requests for Proposals are issued when an organization needs a more complex solution. They mean that you intend to purchase something and have established a fair and impartial vendor selection process.

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.

What does your organization do?

Where are you located?

Provide an overview of your structure.

Who is in charge of the proposal process, and what are their contact details?

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.

Download our LMS RFP template to determine which learning management system will best meet your specific training requirements. 

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:

LMSs tend to specialize in different areas.

Very few have all possible features, and the ones that do make you pay for them. It’s all too easy to wind up paying through the nose for features you never use.

Don't limit your options

Remember the vendor experience and creativity mentioned earlier? A vendor might come up with an excellent proposal that accomplishes exactly what you need in a way you didn’t expect. A stringent list of features or functions, or too much focus on how things are done rather than what they accomplish, can really limit your options.

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:

Required sections

Provide an outline describing required sections and what should be included in each section. Make sure each vendor includes the same information in the same order.

Length of responses

It’s best to provide guidelines about the length of responses, but only after considering how long a proper response should be. If you have 357 requirements and ask vendors to describe how they’ll meet them in under three pages, you won’t get good results.

Proposal template

You might want to create a proposal template, usually in Word or Excel. John Leh recommends using Word. While Excel is good for easy comparison of checklists, Word gives more scope for thoughtful, deeper responses.

10. RFP Process

Maintain control of the process by creating thoughtful timelines and sticking to them. Vendors will need to know when:

The RFP was released

Questions can be submitted

There is usually a period of two or more weeks during which vendors can ask questions. Procedures for accepting vendor questions should also be established ahead of time and set out in the RFP. They should be designed to ensure all vendors have access to the same information so their submissions will be comparable. One effective strategy is to accept only written questions, usually by email, and provide written responses. Questions and answers can then be sent to all vendors who have indicated an interest in the project.

A decision will be made

Keep the process transparent and show respect for the work vendors have put into the process by setting a date for the final decision. It often takes longer than people expect to compare and assess all the proposals they receive, so consider the number of proposals you expect and their length before selecting a deadline.

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.

Conclusion

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!

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Jill W.

Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.

2 Comments
  • Posted at 5:27 am, January 18, 2017

    Great article Jill! Thank you so much for sharing an invaluable article!!!

    • Jill W.
      Reply
      Posted at 11:27 am, January 18, 2017

      We’re happy that you find value in our article, Christopher. Likewise.

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