What Makes A Good RFP?

A major part of my job is writing RFPs for security systems, it seems to be something of a black art. I've seen a lot of examples of bad RFPs in the articles and discussions, but can anyone tell me what exactly is in a good one? What information do vendors need to make good proposals? Are there any examples you can send me (suitably redacted of course) of good RFP?


Tim Lawson

Could you ask for something easier? Perhaps a unicorn? :)

It's a great question actually and it's worth discussing. Thanks for bringing it up!

One thing, we have is our Camera RFP template which provides a breakdown of what and how to specify cameras properly. Related to this and key to getting a quality RFP is picking the right consultant (here's our advice).

We have at least one example of a good proposal, though this is an outlier because it was an integrator and the city paid him to do it.

Carlton, Brian, et al., you have any good examples?

RFPs are a topic where everyone describes a positive via listing the negatives! In my experience, there is no such animal as a 'good general example', because every situation is different. I'm convinced that part of the problem is using boilerplate RFPs.

A minor 'checkbox' detail in one job (for example: 'must have automatic failover server' or 'must integrate with access control system') could be a showstopper if not properly described in another.

Clearly the response here depends a bit on your interests. End user? Integrator? Consultant? Market? etc.

From an end users perspective our RFPs always include the "prove it" requirements. Examples would be bit rate calculations, storage calculations, network diagrams, design narratives describing redundancy etc. The theory here is twofold

1. If you are unable to describe your solution can you effectively deploy said solution?

2. In effort to eliminate confusion due to misinterpretation of the specification

Number 2 is a big one. To dovetail Brain above, check the box for "must have automatic failover server" then go on to describe the expectations/requirements is good, but no matter how well defined in the RFP narrative there is still the high likelyhood that something may be left to interpretation. Ask the bidder to back up their line item proposal with narratives, calculations and diagrams and you are now going to see how creative that Integrator is, get a better idea of their skillset and verify that your expectations were clear.

We have had some Integrators not bid our projects becasue of the upfront documentation we require for our medium to large projects ($300k+).