In recent conversation with a few archivists, they mentioned they were not familiar with RFPs. It wasn’t something I learned about during graduate school either. I learned about them during my DAS courses through SAA, although I can’t recall off hand which course it was in.1
An RFP is a Request for Proposal. Essentially, it is a document that outlines exactly what you want to purchase so that companies can make a bid on providing those products or services. That sounds simple enough, but it can be one of the most important documents you write, particularly if you are purchasing a software system or a suite of services.
One of the reasons it is useful is that it forces you (and your organization) to decide up front what features and services you need. When everyone signs off on the RFP and you send it out for bids, you will have a wonderful piece of paper you can use to fend off scope creep. If someone asks, “Could we add this thing to this service?”, you can say, “Sorry, we didn’t put that in the RFP.”
So, if you are completely new to RFPs, these are the resources that were recommended in the DAS course. They are brief and also very informative and helpful – so much so that I keep the references on hand for any time this topic comes up.
Weidenhammer, John. 2008. “ABCs for RFPs.” Government Procurement 16 (1): 22–23. (Also available through this site.)
Clegg, Helen, and Susan Montgomery. 2006. “How to Write an RFP for Information Products.” Information Outlook 10 (6). (Also available here.)
Porter-Roth, Bud. 2006. “Writing a RIM Request for Proposal.” Information Management Journal 40 (5): 70–74. (Also available here.)
Once you’ve read those, then you might want to see this example of a large and complex RFP:
OHIONET, State Library of Ohio. 2008. “Request for Proposal for an Open Source Software Statewide Resource Sharing System.” Available from OHIONET.
1. I can’t recall which course it was in when I went through the program, but there is now an entire course devoted to the topic, which is great: http://www2.archivists.org/prof-education/course-catalog/developing-specifications-and-rfps ↩