This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of The Rational Edge E-zine on-line magazine, copyright 2002-2003 IBM and Max Wideman.

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) is a rigorous software development process advocated by the Rational Software Corporation.

The downloadable PDF file of the paper on this site is the one prepared by the Rational Edge editorial staff with the special assistance of Ms Marlene Ellin.

Published here October, 2003.

PART IV | Recap | Progressive Acquisition Workflow
Specifying the Work | Selecting or Pre-Qualifying Suppliers
Making the Solicitation | Evaluating Submissions | Negotiating the Contract
Administering the Contract and Controlling the Supplier's Work
Terminating the Contract | Understand Progressive Acquisition
Appendix: Glossary of Terms for Progressive Acquisition

Making the Solicitation

The means by which an organization secures a bid for a software development project is typically a solicitation called a Request for Quotation, Request for Proposal, or Request for Tender (or Bid). Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the actual form and content for these solicitations varies widely across the contracting community. We can distinguish among them as follows.

Request for Quotation (RFQ). Use this to request a price or prices for standard products that can be purchased in varying quantities using a purchase order -- software licenses, for example. The purchase order issued to the supplier represents the offer, and it becomes the contract when the supplier accepts it.

Request for Proposal (RFP). Use this to solicit proposals for both price and technical approach, based on a performance specification included in the RFP. Then, base your selection of a supplier on pre-set evaluation criteria, and negotiate the work content, price, and terms. When you review the various suppliers' proposed technical solutions, it's important to ensure they have not introduced unwanted modifications to your intended technical approach. It is equally important to ensure that the technical approach they offer is acceptable for your particular working environment. Consequently, it may be necessary to negotiate the technical content and language in the final contract.

Request for Tender (RFT), Request for Bid (RFB). If you must insist on a firm price, rather than adopting the progressive acquisition approach we recommend, then make sure you have a healthy management reserve to cover legitimate changes! Request a firm-price tender from competitive bidders based on a technical specification. This form of solicitation demands the most thorough legal and technical specifications from both the acquirer and suppliers. Include the exact form of contract with the RFT or RFB; the offer (tender or bid) you accept will then become part of the contract. In evaluating responses, make sure that the respondents meet all the criteria you described in the request. Those that do not meet the published criteria should be rejected; otherwise, you will undermine the validity of your process and tarnish your reputation.

In the case of both RFPs and RFTs, you should plan on holding a "bidders' conference" to answer potential suppliers' questions and thus ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the requirements. If this raises issues that you overlooked in the original request, you can issue an "addendum" to the original requirements. In any case, you should formally document and distribute your answers so that they become part of the solicitation documents.

Selecting or Pre-Qualifying Suppliers  Selecting or Pre-Qualifying Suppliers

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