Getting Great Data Week: Finding the Right Data System Vendor with a Rockin’ RFP by Corey Newhouse

Hi, this is Corey Newhouse, the Founder and Principal of Public Profit. We help mission-driven organizations use data to be better at what they do.

High quality requests for proposals (RFPs) help prospective vendors to match their products to the client’s needs, and can go a long way toward avoiding unexpected scope shifts (and ballooning budgets!) once the project is underway.

The Making Wise Decisions toolkit has some helpful advice and tools to use for organizations that are planning to issue an RFP for a new data system. Thanks to the S.H. Cowell Foundation for making this resource freely available!

Hot Tips:

  1. Use multiple strategies to source potential vendors. Call around to organizations like yours to ask what they are using, post to listservs, and (gulp!) talk with vendors at conferences to build a list of likely vendors.
  2. Be as clear as you can about what you need. Share as many details as you can about the types of users that will engage with the data system, the variety of data they will enter, and the types of reports they’ll require. Need help figuring that out? Ask for a budget and scope to lead a planning process.
  3. Demand demonstrations! Ask prospective vendors to show how their system will accommodate the most common uses for the new system. Look out for how well they listen to you, how well they understand your work, and how well their system meets your team’s needs.

Rad Resources:

  • Making Wise Decisions has a starter RFP that you can customize to suit your own needs, along with sample interview questions and reference checks.
  • RFP Library from Tech Soup. Helpful advice and sample Requests for Proposals for technology services from a variety of nonprofit organizations.
  • Six Steps for Negotiating the Vendor Demo by Idealware. A list of field-tested, simple, strategies to use to get past the slick sales talk and learn what you need in a software demonstration.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Getting Great Data Week. All posts this week are contributed by evaluators who came together to write about the theme of getting data that is accurate, timely and most of all useful. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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