The solicitation document may be a request for proposal (RFP), “request for quotation” or “invitation for bid.” (See the glossary for more details.) The solicitation document is the formal, official and public solicitation, one which may lay out specific legal and performance obligations for your jurisdiction.
Generally speaking, solicitation documents comprise two main content areas:
- Administrative and procedural descriptions of the conditions and rules governing the procurement
- “Programmatic” descriptions of the need and the services and/or products the successful bidder will need to deliver
- Introductory background on the procurement
- Terms of the agreement
- Rules governing the competition
- Format of the proposal
- How to submit proposals
- Selection process/criteria
- Process for product demonstrations
- Bidder qualifications and references
- Any special terms and conditions, often unique to the jurisdiction’s laws or policies
Examples of sections related to support for the IIS program include:
- Background on the IIS
- Statement of need
- Performance work statement or statement of work
- Service level agreement
- Functional, technical and other requirements
- Required/desired qualifications/skill sets of contractor staff
- Contractor project management requirements
- Terms and definitions
- Solicitation documents generally consist of administrative/procedural information that bidders need to know about the procurement rules, process and timelines, and “programmatic” information that focuses on the products and/or services the jurisdiction requires and that the successful bidder will need to deliver.
- Your jurisdiction is likely to have a template and boilerplate language that you will be encouraged or required to use, at least as a starting place (which is also true of using the GSA process). Knowing what is required and where you have discretion is important to learn.
- Generally speaking, all the information needed for respondents should be included in the solicitation document.
Procuring IT products versus IT services may require a different solicitation template and jurisdiction-specific language. The same is true depending upon whether your solicitation is fully competitive (any eligible organization can submit a bid), selective tender (competition limited to certain pre-qualified organizations), or sole source (only one predetermined organization can respond).
Be sure to verify with your procurement office which among alternative options and templates best matches your needs and requirements. Getting familiar with any templates you need to use is an important early step in your procurement planning.
This step includes those actions that could require some time to complete, so you will likely want to start them early.
- Are you clear where you must use boilerplate narrative from the template and where you control the narrative?
- If you believe a “sole source” solicitation is justifiable, have you researched the criteria and requirements for non-competitive approaches, the documentation you will need to assemble, and who must review and approve?
- Do you interview other IIS programs to gauge customer satisfaction with likely? If so, when in the procurement process could those occur and what restrictions apply?
- Have you worked backwards from when you want to begin the contract to ensure you are allowing sufficient time for each step in the process, including sufficient time for bidders to prepare their proposals (ideally at least two months for that step)?
- Have you developed your evaluation/scoring method? Will you include the method/criteria/scoresheet in the solicitation document? Keep in mind that some jurisdictions or agencies mandate particular evaluation methods for certain types of contracts.
Make sure your team is assembled and informed, that the right people are available at the right times to conduct your procurement process, and that each member understands the process and the legal and policy obligations and limitations imposed on staff during a competitive procurement process.
Your jurisdiction will have preferred terminology and templates you will need to use: “statements of work” or “performance work statements,” “request for proposals” or “request for quotes,” etc. This guidance uses the term “performance work statement” since it is the most commonly used term in IIS procurement, but it is used in a generic sense, as in “statement of need.”