What is a CMMS Request for Proposal (RFP)?

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document a company creates during the procurement process for a new product or service. The goal is to acquire a proposal from vendors that outlines specific details about their offerings and how they will meet the company’s needs and objectives. 

A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) RFP is a request for proposal specifically directed to CMMS software vendors for the selection of maintenance management software. 

The purpose of an RFP

An RFP helps organizations determine the best solution for their needs – in this case, the best CMMS solution. It helps organizations match products and services to their needs, and gives vendors an opportunity to describe in detail how their product can be used at a specific organization.

The RFP should list the features, goals, and any additional information the company might need from the vendor in order to evaluate the vendor’s product. The end goal is for the vendor to respond with a proposal or bid that outlines how their solution will meet the company’s requirements. 

Organizations generally send RFPs to a shortlist of different vendors to narrow down options that have already been researched at a high level. 

How does an RFP differ from an RFI?

Sending an RFP is just one part of the overarching procurement process.

Sometimes, the process begins with a Request for Information (RFI). This is an informal document that an organization creates in order to learn about the market of potential solutions available to them. 

An RFI helps companies better understand the range of solutions out there. It helps a company create a broad pool or category of potential vendors. The RFP, on the other hand, helps a company narrow down potential vendors to one final solution. 

When should you create a CMMS RFP (and when is one not needed)?

Companies typically use an RFP for a CMMS when they have complex integrations or specialized needs. The RFP should outline those needs so vendors can respond accordingly. In addition, a CMMS RFP is a useful tool for organizations that haven’t used a CMMS before or aren’t familiar with the solutions that exist.

However, an RFP is not always the right approach when acquiring a CMMS solution. Here are some guidelines to help determine when to use one and when not to. 

A CMMS RFP is needed when: 

  • There are complex requirements or specialized needs for the CMMS
  • A large-scale or enterprise-level implementation is needed
  • There are multiple potential vendors to choose from
  • Your industry has specific regulatory requirements that the CMMS must adhere to

A CMMS RFP is optional when: 

  • Your maintenance needs are straightforward and standard 
  • The implementation is small-scale and relatively simple
  • There is an existing relationship with a CMMS provider 
  • Time is a critical factor as some RFP processes can be lengthy 
  • Your company has budget restraints and cannot afford the time and resources for an extensive RFP process

Sometimes, a more direct procurement method is appropriate, depending on the organization’s needs. One such method is a Request for Quote (RFQ), in which the organization already knows exactly what it needs and gets a quote for that specific solution. 

Questions to Ask When Creating a CMMS RFP

Before starting an RFP, there’s a lot of information that a company must pull together to ensure the process produces the right result. Many questions will arise during the RFP process, some that you should ask your team and some that should be directed to CMMS vendors. 

Questions to ask your company and maintenance team: 

  • What kind of platform will work best? Does the team prefer on-premise or cloud-based deployment? 
  • What are the key features that your organization needs?
  • What pain points does the team face in asset management planning and maintenance task execution?
  • Are there any CMMS integrations your team needs?
  • What are the daily tasks your team performs? Are there specific tasks that you’d like to streamline?
  • What is the implementation budget and timeframe you are looking at for?

Questions to ask potential CMMS vendors:

  • What platforms and deployment methods do you offer? 
  • What features does your solution provide? 
  • How long will implementation take? 
  • What kind of support do you offer? Is 24/7 support available?
  • What integrations do you have, and will your solution integrate with our current systems?

Be specific in all of your questions to ensure that you have the information to properly evaluate what to look for in a CMMS. 

Steps involved in crafting an RFP

The purpose of an RFP is to ensure you find the best match for your company’s needs. Following these steps to craft a comprehensive RFP, gives your selection process the best chance for success. 

Step 1: Conduct a needs assessment to identify requirements

Before anything else, it is important to outline your goals and business requirements for the CMMS. This information will help vendors better demonstrate how their software solution can help you.

Some things to consider:

Outline all of your company’s requirements. These may range from broad (like mobile access) to very specific (like a particularly essential integration).  

Step 2: Perform initial research on CMMS capabilities and potential vendors

Before sending out an RFP, you need to identify the providers you are interested in getting proposals from. Once your company has outlined its goals for a CMMS, start conducting research on the features and capabilities that you need. 

This can be as simple as a Google search or asking peers at other organizations about the solutions they use. Software review sites can also be helpful resources. Weed out the vendors that don’t meet your needs. Then, dive deeper into the vendors that seem like they could be a good fit to determine a shortlist of potential vendors. 

Step 3: Obtain input from key stakeholders

In the RFP process, include key stakeholders like maintenance managers, C-suite executives, and those who will ultimately be responsible for the final purchasing decision. 

Take your initial research from the first two steps, including company requirements and the shortlist of vendors, and present those to key stakeholders. Gather their input to gain additional insights into features and preferences that will best support your organization’s high-level goals.

Step 4: Draft and edit your RFP

After gathering all essential information, it’s time to outline, draft, and edit the RFP. As you create an outline, be sure to include the following components (see below for further detail on each section): 

  • A company overview including size, location, list of assets or asset types, and production capacity
  • A description of the company’s IT, technical, and software capabilities
  • The company’s objectives for the CMMS
  • A list of feature and capability requirements
  • Timeline and milestones for CMMS implementation
  • Submission guidelines (how the vendor should submit their proposal and key details they should include)

Once an outline is created, you can fill in the details and draft the RFP. Along with including all the right details, be sure to keep a professional tone that will ensure potential vendors want to work with you. 

When the RFP is drafted, review it for professionalism, grammar, and spelling to eliminate any mistakes. Also, send it out to stakeholders for review and make any necessary revisions. 

Step 5: Send your RFP to vendors on your shortlist

With a finalized RFP, you can send the document out to all of the vendors on your shortlist. Allow vendors three to four weeks to respond with a proposal. They need time to prepare and complete a thorough proposal. 

What to include in your CMMS RFP

As you draft an RFP document, it is crucial to include specific sections that highlight more about your organization and its goals for the product. Let’s dive deeper into what information each section should entail. 

Company overview

The beginning of the RFP should share an overview of the company, including specific details around the following: 

  • What the company does
  • How many locations, assets, and facilities the company has
  • How many people are employed by the company
  • How many users of the software your company expects to have

Existing capabilities

List your current maintenance management strategy and capabilities in the RFP. Also, be sure to describe the company’s current technical and IT capabilities in detail.

Does your team have the skill and bandwidth to implement a new software solution? Have you faced any roadblocks with integrations or other software solutions in the past that could cause concern?

This will help the vendors understand how your company is currently operating so they can provide the appropriate support, functionality, and features that the company needs. 

Department and organization goals

Each vendor must understand the organization’s goals for the CMMS. Be sure to call special attention to these, as this is where the vendors should pay the most attention. In highlighting your goals, vendors can ensure they describe features and details that apply to your use case.  They may even have offerings to include that you weren’t aware of in your initial research. 

Here are some of the key goals organizations include when looking for a CMMS

  • Types of integrations the company needs
  • Improved access to maintenance management information plantwide
  • More comprehensive work orders
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • More informed decision-making through data and analytics
  • Better employee accountability and organization around maintenance tasks

System requirements

The RFP should include details about the specific requirements the software must have. These could include things like: 

  • Specific software the CMMS should integrate with
  • User interface requirements based on your employee’s needs
  • Specific functions the company desires — like preventive maintenance, work order management, inventory management, etc. 
  • Customer support requirements

When listing system requirements, also include the level of priority each requirement holds for your organization. 

Proposal submission guidelines

Submission guidelines are an essential section of any RFP. This allows interested vendors to adhere to your goals and deadlines for the purchase and implementation of their software. 

Submission guidelines to include: 

  • Proposal submission deadline
  • Maximum length for the proposal 
  • Desired format for the proposal (PDF, paper, email, etc.)
  • Prior experience the vendor has with similar projects
  • Standard terms and conditions
  • Signature from an authorized company representative
  • Contact information

Timeline and budget 

Potential vendors must understand your budget and time constraints for selecting a CMMS solution, as well as how quickly your company would like to implement the new system. Be specific.  

An example timeline could look like this: 

  • Request for Proposal Sent: April 1
  • Proposal Selection: April 30
  • Start Negotiation: May 6
  • Sign Contract: May 20
  • Project Implementation Begins: June 3
  • Project Completion: June 14

Quality RFPs lead to successful CMMS partnerships

A CMMS RFP can be a beneficial tool for your CMMS selection process. And the more complex your needs, the more essential they become. Ask specific questions before and during the RFP process to get the information you need, and follow a structured process for CMMS evaluation.

In addition, taking advantage of free trials and product demonstrations to learn as much as possible about your potential vendors is a critical step. Together, they will set you up for maintenance success and a productive CMMS partnership.

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