How to Issue a Managed Print Services RFP: The Fastest Way To Find the Right Vendor
Beau Wysong, RFP360
We all know the frustration of trying to get an uncooperative printer to work. Between running out of ink and toner, endless treasure hunts to find the source of a paper jam and trying to interpret indecipherable error codes, it can be maddening. Consequently, it won’t surprise you to hear business printing has become more challenging with the return to office and hybrid working trends.
Luckily, managed print service (MPS) providers offer a solution that saves time, money and your sanity. When it comes to MPS you have a lot of options. So, how do you figure out which company is right for your organization? Easy. Issue a managed print services request for proposal (RFP).
It’s a simple solution, but it can often be a complicated process, especially if you (like most people) don’t regularly issue RFPs for print services. In my work at an RFP management software company, I frequently hear from customers about the challenges, confusion and frustration of writing a new RFP. So, I wanted to offer a guide to the process specifically for those seeking managed print services.
In this post, we’ll share the benefits of issuing an RFP as well as a how-to guide that walks through the process. Then, we’ll offer a selection of questions to consider when writing your RFP.
Three benefits of issuing an RFP for managed print services
So, you may wonder why you would use an RFP to select a managed print services provider. The request for proposal process is designed to make selecting the right vendor clear and easy. In addition, companies that use an RFP enjoy several other benefits.
1. Customized proposals and easy comparisons
Your company has unique printing needs. Accordingly, your proposal should be highly customized. Rather than having different companies provide information in their own style, focusing only on their best features, an RFP levels the playing field. Indeed, it provides a structured and standardized format that makes side-by-side comparisons easy and reduces bias.
2. Secure competitive rates
When you issue an RFP, it signals to MPS providers that they should come to the table with their best offer. In addition, the RFP provides context and background that helps vendors focus on what matters most to your organization. With the additional information, they’ll be able to offer highly-tailored solutions that will best serve your business.
3. Reduced risk
RFPs are thorough. They cover everything from customer reviews to data security practices. By using an RFP, you ensure that your vendors are properly vetted and your decision process is well documented. After all, the last thing you want is to sign a high-value, multi-year contract only to later realize that the provider can’t integrate with your network or provide a key service.
How to issue a managed print services RFP
If you’ve managed other RFPs before, you’ll know that the RFP process can be broken down into three key steps — RFP creation, administration and evaluation.
The first step of the RFP process is crucial. Often, the success or failure of your procurement project can be traced to the research that goes into RFP creation. To start, you’ll need to do a little research.
- Interview stakeholders and end-users to identify your needs. What equipment and services do you need? Which factors are deal breakers?
- Investigate your current state. Who is your current provider? What’s working, and what needs improvement?
- Explore the market. Are there new services or solutions available? What has changed since your last contract?
Sections to include in your RFP
Now, it’s time to write your RFP. Use the information you’ve gathered to customize each section in your RFP. To start, you’ll share your company information, project scope and goals. In addition, include information about the process so vendors can plan appropriately. Finally, you’ll start writing your RFP questions.
- RFP summary and background information
- Scope and project goals
- Evaluation criteria and submission instructions
- RFP timeline
- RFP questions
- Terms and additional documentation
Sample MPS RFP questions
Admittedly, starting from scratch when writing RFP questions is intimidating, and it’s hard to know what to ask. Fortunately, the members of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) are RFP experts.
Drawing from years of experience and thousands of RFPs, MPSA compiled a list of the best MPS RFP questions. Here you’ll find a sampling of the questions. But, if you’re issuing a managed print services RFP, you can register for a free MPSA membership and access the full template here.
Supplier information questions
- Describe the scope and depth of your MPS program.
- Explain your organization’s infrastructure to support your MPS program.
- What metrics do you use to measure growth, efficiencies or cost savings to improve the customer’s organization?
- Describe your firm’s approach to equipment and consumable sustainability.
- What are your installation/removal and disposal processes?
- Are you an OEM or a dealer? Which OEMs are your partners and why?
- Describe the supply fulfillment process.
- Explain how you will manage supply usage and supply inventory.
- How will the software allow automated fulfillment based on alerts and triggers?
- Explain the process and options used to manage reactive break/fix service issues.
- How do you proactively identify potential break/fix issues?
- List all of the break/fix service-related reporting used and provided for your solution.
Security and solutions
- Please detail how your company uses technology to optimize managed print services.
- Explain how you will protect the organization from security risks.
- Provide an overview of your proposed portfolio’s security model and features.
Remember, as you include these questions, consider how you can tailor each one to your needs to ensure you receive the best possible proposal from interested vendors.
Once you have a thoughtful and thorough RFP, it’s time to issue it. You may choose to publish your RFP on your website. On the other hand, you may want to use your research to narrow your vendor selection to a short list.
After you send out your request, allow a period of time for vendors to submit follow-up questions. Gather these questions, and answer them in a single document to ensure every vendor has the same information.
As the deadline draws near, monitor your responses. If needed, send follow-up reminders to vendors who have not yet responded.
Ideally, you now have at least three great proposals from prospective service providers. Now, it’s time to review, score and compare them. First, check each proposal for compliance. Is the RFP complete? Do they meet the minimum requirements? Did they follow instructions?
Second, engage the stakeholders and end users you interviewed. Ask them to help score the RFP sections that are most relevant to them. Don’t forget to include IT, administrative staff, operations, legal, HR and any others who will be key to the success of the partnership.
Next, calculate the scores of each vendor and compare offers. Once you’ve done this, hopefully, you’ll have a clear winner. Congrats! You’ve found the right fit for your needs.
Ultimately, moving to managed print services can save your organization a tremendous amount of time and money. So, when it’s time to make a change, consider leveling up and letting the experts take over the tough stuff. Armed with this information and the MPS questions, you can create a well-written and thoughtful RFP that helps you quickly and confidently select the right partner.