Why Create a Formal Learning & Development RFP?

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If you’ve ever been through the process of creating a Learning and Development Request for Proposal(RFP), you know it can take a lot of time and effort.But spending some time upfront can result in a better learning outcome and fewer headaches down the road… IF you do it right.

When Does Creating a Formal RFP Make Sense?

First, it’s important to note that you may not always need to go this route. You could always put together a summary of your project and then go out and solicit quotes from vendors. You could also hire or contract additional help for your project on your own. But, for purposes of this article, let’s review some specific circumstances where it makes sense to create a formal Learning RFP.

1. The Complexity of the Learning Initiative

The more complex the learning initiative, the more you’ll want to make sure you have the right vendor(s) in place to ensure a successful outcome. Formalizing the process helps you crystallize the specifics, complexities (known challenges), and the desired outcomes of your learning project. Doing this will help you to prioritize which aspects of the project are “must haves” and which are “nice to haves.”
An added bonus of formalizing the process is that all vendors are working from the same sheet of music. This ensures L&D vendors understand the full nature, scope, and expectations of the learning project and the playing field is level-set. It allows each bidder to address all aspects of your learning initiative and present their solution to your specifications – or sometimes, even present you with a better strategy than those you originally were considering.

2. Keeping Your Incumbent Vendor Competitive

There is a possibility that you used the same learning and development vendor for some time. Maybe you’ve seen some rate hikes over the last few years or you may have been dissatisfied with their services. Perhaps you feel as though they’ve grown complacent with your business and assume you won’t look elsewhere. You may be thinking another company else can do it better, faster, or less expensively. Whatever your reasons for shopping going out to bid implies a serious intent that you’re contemplating making a move. You’ll get the most competitive pricing from all sides when companies see that you are willing to review your options.

3. You are Looking for Assurances

It’s often difficult to know whether a company is simply posturing or if they have actual experience to deliver results. Outlining the goals and specifics of your project and asking bidders to respond in writing as to how they would meet each objective and overcome each obstacle can help if any issues arise. Having a formalized RFP response from the selected vendor can protect your company in the event they fail to execute.

4. You are Seeking Information, New Ideas, or Alternate Solutions

Sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know. Just because you’ve always done something the same way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Sometimes we need to seek outside advice or guidance on how to approach a difficult problem or situation. By creating a formal learning RFP, you can get insights into a variety of solutions and approaches to your specific learning initiative. These new ideas can help you decide which makes the most sense for your business and learning challenge.

5. The Scope of the Learning Project is Beyond Your Internal Capabilities

This could mean several things. It could mean that you don’t have the internal resources (bandwidth) to take on the project. It could also mean that your internal team doesn’t have the required expertise (whether in subject matter or development skills) to produce the desired results. The expertise factor alone is not necessarily a reason to conduct a formal RFP, however the combination of bandwidth and expertise can certainly justify the formal RFP process.

6. Your Company Requires a Competitive Bidding Process at Regular Intervals

This is particularly true of publicly held companies or government entities. There’s a fair amount of scrutiny surrounding pay for play, favoritism, nepotism, and the like. By conducting an open bid, you will have the reassurance of eliminating, or at least reducing, the implications of favoritism. The RFP process also gives you the security of knowing that, should the project go sideways, you have documentation showing why you chose that vendor to support your decision.

7. You are Trying to Determine if the Cost of Outsourcing is Prohibitive

You have a set budget for your learning project, but is it realistic? By getting competitive bids, you will gain insight into – whether your assumptions on cost are in line or not. You may realize that you need to source some aspects of the project in-house and then outsource those of greater complexity to stay within your means. Receiving competitive bids can also cause expectations of the ROI of a project to shift. Depending on the cost-benefit analysis of the project and its importance to the organization, some companies may choose to delay, scale back, take a more incremental approach to development, or cancel the project altogether.

Sections to Include in Your Learning RFP

Now that we’ve outlined some specific circumstances where creating a formal RFP is worth the time and effort, let’s delve into the types of information you should include in your Learning and Development RFP.
Our list is comprehensive and you may find that you don’t need to include all this information in your RFP, but it’s important to be as clear and thorough as possible. The more details included, the less ambiguity, fewer questions, and most accurate responses you will receive.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction / Background of your Company
  3. Project Overview
  4. Purpose of the RFP (What type of partner are you seeking? Are you seeking help for this one project or long-term partner?)
  5. Business Need / Business Driver
  6. Learning Objectives / Performance Goals (Why you are issuing the RFP)
  7. Scope of Work and Project Deliverables
  8. Descriptions / Types of Learners
  9. Number of Learners
  10. Learner Demographics
  11. Project Timeline
  12. Technical Requirements
  13. Budget
  14. On-going Support Required
  15. Critical Dates (Bid/No Bid, Q&A, Response Deadline, etc.)
  16. Content / Training Material Needed
  17. Level of Interactivity Expected
  18. Process Requirements
  19. Technologies to be Used
  20. “Must Haves” vs. “Nice to Haves”
  21. Vendor Background
  22. Vendor’s Specific Experience, Skills, Challenges, and Proposed Solution
  23. Selection / Evaluation Criteria for Vendors
  24. Confidentiality Clause / Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement (MNDA)
  25. References
  26. Cost of Preparing the RFP (Who is responsible?)
  27. Project Timeline / Completion Dates
  28. Pricing / Payment Terms
  29. Assumptions or Constraints
  30. Terms and Conditions
  31. Submission Schedule and Guidelines / Review Process
  32. Points of Contact

For information and detailed descriptions about each of these sections, read our article 14 Key Elements to Include in Your Learning RFP.
Developing a comprehensive L&D RFP doesn’t have to be a painful experience. By following these guidelines and asking the right questions, your company will receive the answers needed to validate its selection of a Learning partner.

Let us take the heavy lifting off creating your next learning RFP.

Download our FREE L&D RFP Template Today!

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Need help creating your learning and development RFP?

As a leading provider of corporate training and development solutions, CoreAxis Consulting has responded to countless L&D Requests for Proposals (RFPs), as well as helped many clients write their L&D RFPs. For a no-obligation consultation on your upcoming learning project, or help writing your company’s RFP, contact us at hello@coreaxis.com.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. No information (or possible omissions) contained in this article shall be considered legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established.

About CoreAxis

CoreAxis is a business performance consulting company that offers training solutions to businesses in a variety of industries, such as financial, life sciences, retail and technology. Each of these solutions can be fully customized to meet the needs of the individual client. We build collaborative relationships, becoming a trusted resource and ensuring our clients’ organizational success.

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