When your business is in need of products or services, you’ll likely issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to solicit bids from qualified vendors. Issuing an RFP is often your first and only opportunity to make a compelling case to potential providers about why they should compete for a strategic partnership with your business. 

A well-executed RFP can make all the difference between attracting a partner who merely meets expectations and one who exceeds them. The following steps are designed to position you as a client of choice for high-quality managed print service providers.

1. Establish the baseline

Make sure you know what you have, what you spend and what you actually use. For example, no need to source for A3 (11×17) devices when your users only make use of them less than ½ of 1 percent. Then benchmark what is possible. Seek independent consultants for objectivity and experience to help this and everything that follows. Color is another example to know what % of the volume is color and exactly how much it cost you. With a recent client, color was only 15% but the cost was close to 60%. Clients need to know the baseline in order to compare with the results of the RFP and the ongoing success of the eventual print program.

2. Set the strategy

Equipped with numbers and needs, expand the circle of influences by including stakeholders and those that have the greatest needs. In a recent engagement, a team of diverse leaders established 5 simple strategic planks: security, savings, sustainability, simplicity and standardization – in that order representing the biggest priorities (the why). The strategy is followed up with a Print Policy (the what) and Print Procedures (the how). A tip: define the future fleet, specifically down to the prescribed number of feet from a device another device can be placed. Never relinquish baseline, strategy, policy or procedure to a hardware vendor as making devices and print less accessible goes against their manufacturing need to produce more. Understand this: the more devices are in your environment, the more print there will be; also, the more color devices, the more color print.

Goal should be to make print less accessible and design for where volume will be not were it was or is. Tip – go as lean as possible as you can always add a device later; on the flip side, once a device is bought or leased, it will be five years before any new action can be taken. The biggest question may be this: do you need an MPS or do you really just need devices, supplies and break-fix? With an MPS comes added labor costs and a loss of visibility and control. Our experience has proven that client after client doesn’t want to need all the overhead. Organizations are competent enough to decide what should go where especially if working with an independent expert.

3. Build the model

Beginning with the baseline, combined with the strategy to illustrate the current state compared to a projected future state. Rather than hiding #1, 2 and 3 with the respondents, share it with them to let them know what the goal is, what the ask is, and what their opportunity is. Yes, down to defining the number and type of devices you expect, including pages per device per model. If the respondents are equipped with the best thinking available, it eliminates virtually any of the risks for them. As a result, you can expect to get the best pricing vs the best risk-encumbered pricing – this can be 8-12% in any given opportunity.

4. Craft the RFP and the scorecard

No need to make this too complex; keep it basic and ask 5 great questions, like: How will you help us reduce the volume of printed pages? How will you help impact our culture to be of a digital-first mindset? How will you help us remove locally-attached devices and migrate to fewer, more powerful centralized devices and secure 100%? How will you help us reduce color and devices overall? How will you assist in deploying software to ensure every device is secured and on the network? Crafting the scorecard is a little more tricky as the goal is to simplify the analysis and make sure every element is included and everything is apples-to-apples. This is where thinking with the end in mind will be invaluable.

We get more calls from companies that Blog Issuing an RFP for MPS.docx say, “we issued an RFP, all of the responses have come back, now what do we do and how do we compare?”. Structure pricing by model and by volume and for buy and 5-year lease and force the numbers so it can be completed quickly and fairly. Please don’t waste the vendors time filling out an RFI – all that does is consume the respondents’ time and show them that the organization isn’t I control or have the knowledge at hand. One last recommendation: make sure those involved in print at your organization make time to interview the respondents – a lot can be told when asked with well-prepared questions to observe who speaks and the quality of the thinking. We prefer to separate the software decision from the hardware decision as it is our belief that the hardware folks know their stuff and the software folks know their stuff best. Keep them separate for both transparency and control. We can help with all of the above from framing the questions, the weighting of categories and the overall scoring.

5. Before making the award

Don’t make any announcement until the paperwork is all signed; maintain good relationship with the number two respondent, just in case. Make sure the is and ts are crossed; make sure pricing is fixed for 5 years and does NOT include any fixed minimums anywhere; make sure everything that was represented in the RFP response is validated and confirmed. Gut check their reporting and SLAs. Confirm that the respondent team will do all the discovery, inventory, mapping and design at no charge – and that all devices are installed and removed at no charge.

Make sure all hard or solid-state drivers are certified as being cleansed at no charge. Validate which existing, owned devices the respondent will continue to support and at what price. Take the time to discuss problem resolution and escalation. This process will help ensure that you can work with the chosen respondent as the many back-and-forths will bring rise to pressure, tensions and how they work with stress.

By avoiding these common print-buying mistakes, you can save money and ensure your print projects run smoothly.

At PathForward, we specialize in helping print buyers navigate these challenges to achieve cost-effective print solutions.


So, want to source more intelligently and more efficiently?

PathForward can help.

Take The First Step

If you’re not thinking about your print strategy holistically, you may be paying millions of dollars more every year than needed. However, developing a strategy and utilization of fixed assets can lead to an enterprise saving between 35-65%.

If you are interested in these types of savings and driving bottom-line impact, the model below is how and what PathForward does in helping organizations like yours find the best-tailored strategy for their goals, priorities, and requirements.

We have helped organizations like yours save over $750M.