If you’re looking for a new system to increase your business’ security, it can be overwhelming to choose between the variety of options on the market. The cloud and hybrid cloud video surveillance markets are booming, and a number of newcomers have introduced powerful features to help businesses save money and increase efficiency. 

When you’re not sure where to start, creating an RFP, or request for proposals, can be a great way to learn more about the options out there. Through an RFP, you will get a variety of bids from companies interested in providing you with their services, and will be able to make a more informed decision as a result.

Establish your company’s goals

The first thing to do in writing an RFP is to establish some background about your company as well as what your goals are. Remember that you may be getting submissions from businesses who have never heard of you or your work before, so this context is important to getting proposals from companies that are a good fit for you and your industry. It’s also a good idea to let potential service providers know why you are looking to get a new surveillance system and how you hope it will benefit your business. This kind of information helps other companies tailor their proposals to you and your goals, rather than sharing the same old marketing collateral available on their website.

Detail technical requirements

The next aspect you should focus on in your RFP are the specific technical requirements that you are looking to meet with your new security system. These may be aspects of the surveillance system itself (like a desire to be able to monitor footage on more than one device) or they may be technical limitations of your workplace (only PCs are used). Again, this kind of information can be helpful in giving potential providers valuable information about your technical needs as well as what sorts of obstacles may need to be negotiated. It’s worth noting that you don’t need to be fully versed in technical jargon in order to ask for technical requirements. Sometimes phrasing things as questions can be just as effective, such as asking whether or not you can have the ability to control which employees see specific areas in your surveillance feed. 

Outline your ideal budget

Not to be forgotten, a realistic project budget can help companies that may not be a good fit decide whether or not you are a client worth working with. This saves both you and others valuable time and money. If a potential contractor feels they are too big for your business, they can opt out of even entering into discussions with you. This also ensures that you stay on budget, so it’s vital that you provide a realistic breakdown of how much you’re looking to spend on hardware, software, installation, and onboarding fees. It’s also never a bad idea to include your ideal timeline in this portion of the RFP, since sometimes it costs more money to turn around a surveillance installation quickly. 

Move forward with several good options

Think of an RFP process as a job interview for a new piece of technology or software. Companies will send you documents that address the needs that you have outlined, and you will be able to move forward with three or four good candidates to learn about them in more detail. In these discussions, remember that you’re evaluating them as much as they’re evaluating you. Ask the questions that weren’t answered in each company’s proposal, and make sure to pay attention to how they communicate and whether or not they’re easy to get ahold of when planning your meeting. Any red flags you come across in this discussion phase could snowball into even worse behaviors after a contract is signed.

Create a scope of work and terms of conditions

Once you’ve picked a company that seems to have the best proposal, make sure that you create a scope of work and have each party sign it. This should outline all deliverables necessary as part of the project, as well as detail deadlines for each phase. You’ll also want to establish guidelines for payment. Some businesses prefer to get a portion up front and a portion at the end, while others may opt for payment in smaller chunks that coincide with each deadline. Remember that just like other aspects of the RFP process, this is a conversation between both parties, so if you’d like to make changes to the company’s typical agreement, feel free to bring them up during negotiations.

Even if you don’t have a solid understanding of surveillance systems or IT security, a good RFP process will help you choose the best option for your business. The beauty of crafting an RFP is that it is custom-tailored to your company’s needs and priorities, so rather than a business selling you on what you think you might need, you are finding out how a business can truly meet your needs. The result is a better working relationship for both parties, and, hopefully, a lasting and fruitful partnership.