By Cara Vermillion, Sales Operations Team Manager, Carbyne
Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) play a vital role in emergency response and public safety. To maintain and improve their operational capabilities, PSAPs often need to procure new technology and services such as NG911 call handling solutions. Writing an effective Request for Proposal (RFP) is the first step in the procurement process. In this article, we will guide PSAP administrators and decision-makers on how to create a well-structured and comprehensive RFP to meet their specific needs.
Define Your Objectives
The first step in creating an RFP is to define your objectives. Understand what you hope to achieve with the new technology or service. Some common goals for PSAPs include:
- Enhancing response times and efficiency.
- Improving call handling capabilities (e.g. caller video, location, messaging).
- Upgrading outdated equipment or software to advanced cloud-native platforms.
- Meeting compliance with industry standards and regulations.
Identify Your Requirements
Once you’ve defined your objectives, it’s crucial to identify your specific requirements. This involves a detailed analysis of your current setup and understanding where improvements are needed. Some aspects to consider may include:
- Call routing and handling.
- Data management and integration.
- Reporting and analytics.
- Disaster recovery and redundancy.
- Cybersecurity and data protection.
Consult with Stakeholders
PSAPs are complex organizations that involve multiple stakeholders, including information technology and security professionals, legal, procurement and finance teams, emergency responders, government officials, and community representatives. Engage with these stakeholders to gather input and understand their needs and concerns. Their perspectives are invaluable in shaping your RFP.
Establish a Clear Scope of Work
The scope of work section in your RFP should outline the project’s requirements, timelines, and deliverables. Be specific about what you expect from vendors, including:
- The desired technology or service.
- Implementation and deployment timelines.
- Training and ongoing support requirements.
- Performance metrics and evaluation criteria.
Set Clear Evaluation Criteria
To assess vendor proposals effectively, establish clear evaluation criteria. This helps in the objective and fair assessment of each submission. Criteria may include:
- Technical capabilities and features.
- Vendor experience and qualifications.
- Cost and budget considerations (including total cost of ownership).
- Compliance with industry standards.
- References from similar projects.
Draft a Detailed RFP Document
The RFP document itself should be comprehensive and well-structured. It should typically include the following sections:
- Introduction: Briefly explain the purpose of the RFP and provide background information on your organization including current metrics, integrations, and environmental details.
- Scope of Work: Clearly define the project, its objectives, and expected outcomes.
- Proposal Submission Instructions: Specify the submission process, deadline, and any specific formatting or content requirements.
- Evaluation Criteria: Detail how proposals will be evaluated and what factors are most important to your organization.
- Terms and Conditions: Include any legal or contractual requirements that vendors should be aware of.
- Budget and Payment Schedule: Provide a clear overview of the budget and how payments will be made.
- Contact Information: Include the contact details of the person or team responsible for the RFP process.
- Timeline: Provide an estimated project timeline that includes a question and answer period, vendor demonstration timeline, contract negotiation period, and potential Go-Live dates.
Encourage Questions and Clarifications
In your RFP, encourage potential vendors to seek clarification on any ambiguities or ask questions related to the project. This can help vendors fully understand your requirements and submit more accurate proposals.
Review and Refine
Before releasing your RFP to the public, have it reviewed by internal and external stakeholders so that it accurately reflects your organization’s needs. Make any necessary revisions based on their feedback.
Writing an effective RFP is a crucial step in the procurement process for PSAPs. It can enable your organization to get the right technology or services to enhance public safety and emergency response capabilities. By following the steps outlined in this article and involving all necessary stakeholders, you can create a well-structured RFP that attracts qualified vendors and leads to successful project outcomes.