RFP or RFI? Start with a Requirements Analysis

Tobin Conley | 08.04.14
Topics: Software Requirements & Selection


Selecting a new technology system, application, or software is a daunting task. First, you must first collect, analyze, and document requirements. But, then what? Should you send out an RFP? Or would you find a better vendor or consultant match by sending out an RFI first?

Sage Advice: Start with a Requirements Analysis before Rushing into an RFP Process

Thankfully, we can rely on the wisdom of the Oracle at DelCor, a distant cousin of the priestess Pythia, the Oracle at Delphi. We eavesdropped on some of the conversations the Oracle had recently with a visitor.


“Good afternoon, Oracle. We just got back from a board meeting where the budget for a new AMS was approved. The CEO popped in my office today and told me to send out an RFP immediately. Is that really my next step? Do you have a template?”

No, no, no – no templates!! Do not rush into confusion! Before you send out an RFP, you must be sure that the requirements for the new AMS have been identified and documented. Gather a team of colleague stakeholders, discuss requirements, and review your existing business processes and technology.

The requirements journey can be fraught with peril. Best to bring along a trusted guide. Or read some of our recent posts if you decide to DIY, as they say in your world. Prepare yourself!

After documenting requirements, research the market. Talk to your peers, reach out to other professionals on Collaborate, and check the ASAE Buyers’ Guide. Come back to me when you’ve done your requirements analysis and market research – not before!

[Time passes. The visitor returns.]

“Thank you, Oracle. The requirements analysis process was more beneficial than we expected. We now know what we need – versus what we thought we wanted – and we discovered many business processes that are in need of improvement. Plus, our team is more cohesive because we understand each other’s work and challenges better. We found that as long as we keep our focus on the strategic needs of the association, we are able to make the best decisions.”

Yes, as your mother has said many times, I told you so. The discussions and decisions made during requirements analysis are often as valuable as the solution selected. So, you’ve done your market research, I assume. How many vendors are you considering?

“I have a list of 14. Should I send them an RFP?”

No no no! You will send them an RFI, not an RFP.

“But why an RFI?! My boss specifically said to send an RFP.”

Is your boss as omniscient as I?

[Lightning and thunder strike.]

If you send an RFP out to a dozen vendors, half won’t respond because of your “spray and pray” approach. You must first narrow the field to those who have the appropriate expertise and experience. An RFI will help you do that. Woe be to those who ignore my advice!

[More lightning and thunder.]


[Time passes. The visitor returns.]

“I followed your advice, Oracle. We sent out an RFI and received very helpful responses. Four of the vendors have the experience and expertise we need. Plus, we think their approach to project management, customer service, and support is a good fit for our association. What’s our next step?”

Now, you send an RFP to those 4 vendors.

“Couldn’t you just tell me which one to pick?!”


[The sky darkens. More thunder and lightning. The visitor takes the hint and runs back to work.]

The end.



Don't Skimp on Requirements Analysis  We answer 9 questions about requirements analysis so you can save your job—and  your sanity. Bonus: Dave's top ten signs your project is in trouble. Download the Whitepaper

Flickr photos by violscraper, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, Cocabiscuit, Dennis Jarvis

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