Managing the RFP process for a new online training vendor can be a series of daunting and overwhelming tasks. In fact, it might turn out to be one of the largest and most complicated projects a training professional will ever have to handle. As you embark on the RFP process and the subsequent decision-making and implementation processes, there are some basic practices and tools that can help make these processes successful and less stressful. They might even turn out to be a career highlight!

1. Creating a Timeline

Developing the timeline might be the easiest part of the process, as there are usually requirements and/or deadlines outside of the training department that drive it. For example, if your vendor contracts run for three years at a time, you can plan accordingly for reviews of your current online training vendor. Additionally, if you maintain sole ownership of the compliance training schedule for the organization, you can also manage a flexible training schedule around the RFP process and possible new vendor implementation dates.

2. Creating the RFP Documents

Most company-sponsored RFPs documents consist of several parts, generally fitting the categories of “general,” “technical” and “financial.” There’s also a cover letter and instructions that provide details such as company background, RFP project scope, training requirements, submission details, the process for submission (i.e., online portal to use, file-saving guidelines, etc.), general financial terms and targeted timeline. After you’ve decided on the financial parameters with your contracting and procurement team, you can leave the financial aspects of the RFP in its hands. You should work with that team, or whoever is managing the RFP process for the organization, on the cover letter and instructions, since you’ll need to specify what specific courses or curricula you’ll need, which categories of employees will be accessing the training system, and whether the RFP submissions must address any industry-specific regulatory requirements.

You’ll also include some of this information, in greater detail, in your technical document. Work with your colleagues to ensure you remain the subject matter expert for this part of the RFP. You may need to coordinate your requests with IT to ensure that your current systems architecture can support what you’re requesting. You now also have the opportunity to discuss your overall timeline (if you haven’t done so already). The technical document will include such statements as these:

  • Please describe the types of off-the-shelf courses you have available. Include the number of major topic areas.
  • How do you engage users across learning preferences?
  • What are some of the most innovative features of your course offerings?
  • Please describe the process of customizing your off-the-shelf courses.
  • How can we use your platform to assign courses?
  • Please describe how your company supports administrators and users in the use of the courses and your platform.

3. Reviewing and Scoring the RFP Documents

Creating a detailed technical document and a cover letter with equally detailed and clear instructions clears the way for an efficient review of all the documents. For many companies, the procurement team receives RFP documents, logs them and sends the technical documents to the training SME to review while they analyze the other two sections. Here’s a sample scoring system for each of your RFPs:

  • 0: Requirements not met
  • 1: Acceptable, but has slight deficiencies
  • 2: Meets the requirements
  • 3: Exceeds the requirements

If the entire team needs to have a calibration session to review criteria for each level of score, take the initiative and schedule that meeting. You might create a sub-score template outlining key elements for each score level. Coupled with the scoring rubric, you’d create a master scoring grid to record all the data to assist in your decision-making:

  Vendor A Vendor B
General Score    
Technical Score    
Financial Score    

4. Final Decision-making

Having followed the previous steps in your efficient RFP process, your final decision-making can be simply a matter of reviewing the scores and discussing whether you and your fellow decision-makers are ready to award the new contract. If the scores are close and there are equal pros and cons for those vendors, you may want to include a live or web demo. The demo affords you the opportunity to see if the actual product aligns with the RFP and whether the vendor would be a good business partner. You may also want to ask for client references and contact a few of them with a set of questions to find out, for example, how good the vendor’s customer service is. What kind of response does it provide to requests and questions? Does it fluctuate based on circumstances out of your control?

There are many templates, tools and processes for managing an online training vendor RFP, and each organization has its own set of contracting/procurement requirements, not to mention industry-specific regulations. Managing these components need not cause your head to spin. One way to make the entire process more streamlined and efficient is to follow the best practices outlined here. Handling these tasks well can only add to your overall value as well as your professional experience and expertise.