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Purchasing an ILS (Part 4): Develop a Request for Proposal (RFP), submit it to vendors and shortlist

This piece of the process is essential. Through it, you comprehensively outline your needs and by doing so will make comparing systems much easier. If you’re going the open-source route, then this step won’t apply (though outlining your requirements would still be a very useful exercise). 

These sites are useful for general guidance on proposal writing and for writing an ILS-specific RFP:

Here are a few sample RFPs that you may want to look at for ideas:

More examples are available online. When writing your RFP, the one thing that I would stress is to ensure that you cover off all of the priority areas for your library and your clients – clearly articulate your core needs in your proposal. You will want to explore your core needs with each vendor when you start reviewing the systems. 

After you’ve developed your RFP, you will need to submit it to the various vendors on your list. Personally, I was surprised by the differences between the proposals we received. Some had clearly been developed for us; in others, it was clear that our name had been added throughout the proposal similar to a form letter. Finding the right system will be your highest priority, but if a vendor doesn’t seem to be paying attention to your needs at this early juncture, then you might want to think twice. The RFP process provides them with their opportunity to begin building a relationship with your organization; it is important.

I looked for the following when reviewing the proposals:

  • Did they try to get to “know us” and our needs?
  • Were they attentive to detail?
  • Did they address our requirements/answer our questions in their proposal?
  • Was the system within our budget?

After reviewing the proposals, narrow the list. These will be the vendors that you’ll want to contact for demos and system testing.

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