The Request for Proposal (RFP) Process

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  • Prior to writing an RFP, assess current organizational systems and processes to identify requirements of a new system that will be procured.
  • Understanding the organization's needs will help:
    • identify the appropriate vendor candidates, and
    • allow vendors to better demonstrate appropriate software solutions.

Steering Committee

  • Select a Committee leader who believes in the project, has the time to participate, and who can effectively communicate and facilitate communication.
  • Sample members of the team could include:
    • IT leadership representative
    • Nursing leadership
    • Human Resources
    • Finance
    • Operations
    • Ancillaries

Clarify Goals

  • The team will need their collective expertise to define what current systems cannot do today and if a new system is being considered.
  • Reaching out to similar health care organizations and understanding what their solutions are may be helpful.

When to RFP

  • Evaluate current assets/systems in relationship to needs.
  • Research vendors offering solutions which align with organizational goals.


  • Set program benchmarks that can be tracked in order to accurately measure program success.
  • Benchmarks allow vendors to have a clear understanding of what is desired from the system.
  • Benchmarks may include:
    • Clinical/Quality Benchmarks (typically for acuity and patient classification tools)
      • Patient satisfaction with pain management
      • Patient satisfaction with nursing care
      • Patient satisfaction with overall care
      • Patient satisfaction with medical information provided
      • Pressure ulcers
      • Patient falls
      • Nurse job satisfaction
      • Rates of nosocomial infections
      • Total hours of nursing care per patient, per day
      • Staffing mix (ratios of RNs, LPNs, and unlicensed staff)
    • Staffing Benchmarks (typically for staff scheduling tools)
      • Core/Contingency utilization
      • FTE commitments
      • Extra/Overtime
      • Core staff floating
      • Shift cancelations
    • Contingent Labor Benchmarks (typically for vendor management solutions)
      • Staff quality
      • Fill rates
      • Time to fill
      • Cancellation Rates
      • Vendor Performance

Need/Gap Analysis

  • Definition: a documented list of pain points and new requirements for the system being pursued, with the appropriate documentation from the benchmarks and from the steering committee.
    • Technical gaps are data and/or application functionality that does not exist today or is fundamentally flawed (ie, the staffing office does not have the ability to see all open shifts across inpatient nursing areas).
    • Process gaps are missing or broken operational workflows in the hospital related to the target system (ie, vacation requests are submitted by nurses on paper forms that are easily lost).
  • Guiding Principles: Help clarify the reason and drivers for the decision-making process during the RFP vendor selection. Guiding principles generally fall into one of four categories
Operational Drivers
  • Policy Standardization
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Reduced schedule creation time
  • Control labor costs
Technical Drivers
  • Maintain consistent vendor
  • Cross-system integration complexity
  • Cost of IT ownership
Patient Care Drivers
  • Staff skill aligned to patient needs
  • Staffing volumes matched to patient acuity
  • Increased direct patient care time by staff
Other Factors
  • System usability
  • Out of box functionality vs customization required
  • Total Cost

RFP Components

  • Steps to define your purpose
    • Use the work from the Steering Committee and create a clear list of defined goals that the selected vendor should meet.
    • Clearly define what problem needs to be solved and what solutions are being sought. Do you need a core scheduling application? Do you need to also manage contingent labor including temps and contractors?
  • Expect your RFP to contain
    • Functionality/filling outcomes
    • Cost: acquisition and maintenance
    • Technical Requirements
      • Infrastructure
      • Support
    • Legal
    • Compliance
      • Accreditation
      • Regulatory

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

  • Skipping the RFI process
    • Narrowing down the list of vendors to roughly 5 during the RFP process is critical.
    • A simple Request for Information (RFI) can help you weed out the bad fits.
      • RFI's are the process of requesting general information from software vendors about their products and solutions they provide, without the rigor of lengthy requirements scoring and demonstrations.
      • Some vendors use an approach (like integrated timecards and schedules) or a technology (like cloud or mobile) that easily qualifies or disqualifies them from your search.
    • Ask questions that force participating companies to provide answers that speak to your stated objectives.
  • Internal confusion and conflict.
    • When internal committee members and decision makers agree early on goals for the RFP, it avoids conflict.
    • Not everyone gets what they want, but decisions made that align with the overall goals of the project will guide one solution over another.
  • Asking unnecessary questions.
    • Make sure every question on the RFP has a clear purpose.
    • This will make for sharper responses from vendors and sharper judgements from your team.
    • Ask open ended questions like "How would the system perform xyz process?" instead of "Can you do xyz function?"
      • Yes/No questions are not valuable for differentiating vendors from each nor for understanding how their strengths fit your guiding principles.
      • Open ended questions let you understand how the vendor approaches the solution, but from a usability and an overall strategic perspective.
  • Unrealistic timelines.
    • Be realistic how long the RFP should take and don't try and rush the process.
    • On larger RFPs, vendors should have at least 4 weeks to form a response to an RFP in order to ensure the highest level of quality in the response.
  • Poor benchmarking
    • Does the criteria align with the stated goals of the project? If it doesn't, the information necessary to assess the solution against the decision making factors won't be gained.
  • Ignoring key stakeholders
    • Make sure the committee consists of multiple stakeholders that represent all areas of the health system that will be affected by the change.
    • Managing change is easier when stakeholders feel invested in the process.

Vendor Selection

  • IT leadership representative
  • Nursing leadership
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • Operations
  • Ancillaries

Steering Committee

  • Create scoring criteria and schedule demonstrations that will facilitate a final vendor selection.
  • Scoring
    • Create an evaluation team and assign roles. Consider creating teams of subject matter experts to review each section with a final review team to make final evaluations and resolve any disputed scores.
    • Ensure that evaluators are not allowed to communicate with vendors during the evaluation period.
    • Have a clearly defined scoring system that is transparent to vendors and creates an opportunity to standardize the quality of vendors when compared against one another.
    • Standardize scoring. A scale of "1 to 3" or "1 to 5" works well:
      • 5 points = Fully meet requirement
      • 4 points = Meets requirement, but has minor issues
      • 3 points = Meets requirement but has more significant issues that may require moderate level of compromise
      • 2 points = Partially meets requirement and has significant issues that may be hard to overcome
      • 1 point = Does not meet requirement
    • Prioritize scoring. Two questions that receive a 5 are not necessarily created equal. Each question can have a level of priority assigned. The higher the priority, the less likely a compromise is accepted. Break the RFP up into sections that you can assign value to. Each section could be assigned a percentage of value. For example, if there are 4 sections, one may be worth 50% of the overall score, while the other 3 combined make up the other 50%.
    • Decide how much of a role price plays into the score. Don't let it become a main factor.
    • Plan sufficient time for scoring the RFP.
    • Identify top vendors for Demos


  • The best processes are basic and include a list of all functionality grouped into sections, such as:
    • Scheduling
    • Communication
    • Interfaces
    • Licensure
    • Open Shift Management
    • Staffing
    • Reporting
    • End-User Experience
    • Training
  • Questions relative to these sections should be provided in advance of the demo and used as a guide for the demo ahead of time.
    • Demo sessions should be interactive
    • Have a moderator in place to keep track of time and ensure that all areas are covered in the allotted time – typically two to three hours.

Deployment and Evaluation

  • Creating system requirements: After researching staffing solutions, identify which companies publish offerings that align with your requirements. Your team should be able to speak to staffing required to implement and maintain your solution, technical infrastructure, maintenance, and support, in addition to core functionality.

The RFP Process