A request for proposal allows you to outline what you are looking for in your ideal learning management system vendor and creates a standardized form or checklist for all would-be vendors to follow. When every organization or product you are considering follows the same guidelines, answers the same questions, and provides the same materials, it is easier for you to compare them and determine which best suits your eLearning program goals.
In this guide, we’ll cover the essentials of writing an LMS RFP through the following points:
Overview of the LMS Request for Proposal
What is an LMS RFP?
A learning management system request for proposal (LMS RFP) is a document that’s used during the process of purchasing an LMS. The learning business creates an RFP, in which they outline what they’re seeking in the LMS shopping process. They then share the RFP with LMS vendors, inviting those vendors to submit a proposal that outlines how they will meet the learning business’s needs.
What is the purpose of an RFP?
Put simply, an RFP is used to solicit proposals from LMS vendors in which they provide more information about their products and/or services and how they can be used to accomplish the learning business’s goals.
The ultimate purpose of this exercise is to help your learning business easily differentiate between different prospective vendors and choose the ideal next LMS for your goals. The act of creating an LMS RFP does the following:
- Helps your learning business organize and prioritize the features, services, and overall characteristics that you’re seeking from your next LMS provider. The practice of writing down what you’re seeking gives you direction when first researching new solutions.
- Clearly articulates what you’re hoping to accomplish with the help of an LMS vendor, allowing that team to respond with how they will help you do so. The LMS vendor can answer all of your questions and respond to each of your requirements in a standardized manner, ensuring that no essential considerations fall through the cracks.
- Streamlines the decision-making process, as all LMS vendors will respond to the RFP using a standardized form or checklist. When every organization or product you are considering follows the same guidelines, answers the same questions and provides the same materials, it is easier for you to compare them and determine which best suits your eLearning program goals. You can quickly review differences between the various proposals, side-by-side, and discover which products or vendors match your needs, budget, and program.
While your organization can discern the basic features and benefits of various LMSs by viewing their websites and marketing materials, this information might be fairly generic and surface-level. An RFP and the ensuing proposal evaluation process allow you to consider LMSs and vendors in light of your learning business’s unique circumstances and make a better-informed buying decision.
How can you write an LMS RFP?
To write an impactful LMS RFP for your organization, keep the following tips in mind:
- Clearly define what your organization is seeking. A vague RFP does little for your organization or prospective vendors and will lead to a muddled evaluation process. Outline the specifics of what your organization is looking to accomplish with your new LMS, prioritizing those features and benefits that are most important to your learning business.
- Do preliminary research before sharing your RFP. Investigate which LMS providers you’re considering sharing the RFP with and make sure that the vendors are fairly closely aligned with the scope and needs of your project before sharing the document. You don’t want to wade through a sea of wildly unqualified vendor proposals during the evaluation process.
- Partner with an eLearning consultant. A consultant can help your team write your RFP, evaluate proposals, and even implement the new technology once you’ve decided upon a solution. They can bring an unbiased, third-party perspective to your LMS selection process to ensure you end up with the ideal solution to meet your learning business’s needs.
With these tips in mind, let’s cover the main sections that are included in an LMS RFP and what specific information you should include within each.
LMS RFP Sections
Submission information describes the baseline information that vendors need to know to respond to the RFP with a proposal. It should answer questions such as:
- When are proposals due?
- Who should the vendor submit the proposal to?
- In what format should the proposal be submitted?
- Who should vendors contact within your organization to ask any clarifying questions that arise from the RFP?
Generally, you should give vendors at least four weeks to create and submit their proposals, as they will have multiple teams (sales, development, implementation, etc.) contributing to the document. Including this information makes it easy for your vendors to contact the right people and ensures you receive the intended proposals.
The executive summary is a one-page overview of your project that summarizes the main goals of the project and what you’re seeking from an LMS provider. This includes information such as:
- Who your organization is and what you specialize in.
- The key tasks you’re hoping to accomplish with your new LMS.
- Any initial metrics associated with the project (such as the number of users who will be in the system).
- The required features and characteristics that you’ll need to see to consider a provider.
This summary allows vendors to get a quick overview of your project and decide whether they’re able to align with the baseline requirements. If a vendor reads this summary and realizes clear discrepancies between its offerings and your project, they’ll choose not to move forward with creating a proposal.
We recommend completing the other sections of your RFP first and then returning to write the executive summary. That will make it easier to summarize your key goals in a concise manner.
This section provides an in-depth background of your learning business and the students you serve. It should cover information such as:
- The demographics of your students.
- A discussion of how tech-savvy your learners are.
- Your learning business’s branding details.
Including the final point— branding details— can provide interesting insight into the providers you’re evaluating. For example, if a provider customizes their proposal to reflect your company’s branding, such as by incorporating your company logo and branding guidelines, this shows that they’ve invested significant thought and care into your project.
The LMS details section is often the lengthiest section of your RFP and should cover the details about what you need, specifics about the technology you want, how you want the LMS to perform, and even the legacy software or components that the system will need to integrate with. Aim to answer any questions that the association LMS provider could have regarding what you’re seeking in the project. This includes (but is not limited to):
Data and Usage:
- How many users will be trained using the LMS?
- How many users will be accessing the LMS simultaneously at any given time?
- How many courses do you already have?
- How many courses are you hoping to create?
- What types of materials will you host within the LMS?
- What types of user roles (for example, account owner, administrator, author, user) will you need?
- What security features will need to exist between different user roles?
- What is the layout of user roles in your organization?
- Which specific features are you seeking in an LMS?
- How or in what context do you plan to use each specific feature?
- Which features are most important to your learning business?
- What existing technologies does your organization use with which the LMS will need to integrate?
- Will you need the vendor to build any integrations, or will you handle that internally?
- What solutions does the LMS need to be generally compatible, though not integrated, with?
Fully detailing your needs ensures that the proposals you receive address every point you have asked about and that any estimate is accurate and detailed. If you need training, end-user support, integrations, or any other components, it needs to go into this section.
This section is where vendors provide a background of their company, their LMS, and their plan for bringing your project to life. It should cover information such as:
- When was the company created?
- Has the vendor won any awards?
- What is the vendor’s main audience?
- How many people work at the company?
- How many individuals will be assigned to your project?
- What are the technical requirements of the platform?
- What are the features, functionalities, and limitations of the platform?
- Is additional customization possible?
- What is the vendor’s data security policy?
- How does the platform measure against your requested functionality?
- What are the stages involved in the vendor’s implementation process?
- How long will each implementation stage take?
- What will the vendor complete?
- What will be the responsibilities of your team?
- Can the vendor share any references from past clients?
Ideally, you’ll choose an LMS that can grow and scale with your learning business over time. That means that you’ll be working with this vendor for a significant period— so, it’s good to have an understanding of their processes and procedures.
This covers the terms of the contract that you’re hoping to sign with an LMS vendor. For example:
- What kind of payment terms will you need?
- Do you need financing options, a specific contract length, or other considerations?
- How will renewal be handled?
- What penalties, if any, will exist for the late delivery of products or services?
All the details that surround the actual contract and work performed will go here.
The final section covers how your organization will select the winning proposal. This includes:
- The step-by-step process you’ll use to evaluate proposals.
- Any rubric or documents used to compare proposals side-by-side.
- The timeline during which proposals will be evaluated.
- How vendors will be notified of whether they were chosen or not.
While this section isn’t required, it can give providers an idea of what your team will prioritize in the evaluation process. And, even if you don’t include this section in your external RFPs, it’s still helpful to share the details with your internal team to ensure all evaluators are doing so from the same foundation.
LMS RFP Template
To make it as easy as possible to create your LMS RFP, we’ve created a PDF template. Preview it below and access it here.
After the LMS RFP: Evaluating Proposals
Once you’ve received completed proposals in response to your RFP, it’s time to evaluate them and choose a winner. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when doing so:
- Use a numerical scoring system to ensure an unbiased comparison between solutions.
- Within your scoring system, weigh different aspects depending on the importance of each specific factor for your organization’s overall project.
- Request a demo of your top solutions to preview the LMSs in action before making a final decision.
Thanks to your RFP, you will have already outlined the criteria for success and will be able to compare specific LMS products and offerings. Using an RFP standardizes the submission process and can make it easy for your team to find an LMS solution that works for you.
At Web Courseworks, we offer eLearning consulting services and can help your team choose the best LMS for your next project. To learn more about those services, contact us here. In the meantime, explore the following resources from the Web Courseworks Managing eLearning blog:
- What Does an eLearning Consultant Do? The Complete Guide. Are you considering partnering with a consultant? Learn more in this guide.
- What’s A Learning Experience Platform? The Essential Guide. Should you invest in an LXP? Explore the innovative solutions here.
- 10+ Best eLearning Course Authoring Software Platforms. Course authoring software is essential to create courses for your learners. Explore the top solutions here.