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Top Tools for Your RFx (RFI, RFQ, ...) Projects

March 1, 2024

Many analysts describe the B2B purchasing or procurement process as a long slog. It starts with processes for problem Identification, requirements building, solution exploration, and then supplier selection. And, of course,  if everything goes according to plan a sales proposal, purchase order, and vendor onboarding.  

In the context of this long journey, RFxs—encompassing Requests for Information (RFIs), Proposals (RFPs), and Quotations (RFQs)— are documents used by the procurement team to solicit information, proposals, or quotations from potential suppliers along the way. 

Where do RFI, RFP, and RFQ fit in the purchasing journey
  • RFIs, or Request for Information, are utilized in the initial stages of procurement to gather general information about the capabilities, products, and services of potential suppliers. This step is crucial for understanding the market landscape and identifying potential vendors who can meet the organization's needs.
  • RFPs, or Request for Proposal, are issued when a buyer has a clear understanding of their project requirements and seeks detailed proposals from suppliers. RFPs not only outline the project's scope and specifications but also invite vendors to propose solutions that demonstrate how they can meet these requirements, often including methodologies, timelines, and pricing.
  • RFQs, or Request for Quote, are focused on obtaining pricing for a specific list of products or services once the buyer's requirements are well-defined. They are particularly useful for purchases where cost is a significant factor in the decision-making process.

Executed and managed properly, RFxs streamline the procurement process, ensure transparency, and simplify acquisition. 

Building on previous articles on best practices, this article focuses on the critical capabilities of RFx tools. We investigate the main options and highlight how investments in a platform that’s “just right” can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your procurement process.

Critical Capabilities for RFx Tools

RFx processes—whether RFI, RFP, or RFQ—are a type of external collaboration. Specifically, they’re collaborations between your procurement organization and a supplier or suppliers. The RFx processes either gather broad market insights and solutions through RFIs or acquire detailed information about a particular vendor's offerings to assess how well they meet your needs through RFPs. By examining the critical capabilities for external collaboration tools, we can get a baseline for the capabilities that must exist within RFx tools. 

Capabilities include:   

  • Real-time and Asynchronous Communication: Essential for engaging with potential suppliers who are external to your organization, enabling seamless interaction across different time zones and schedules. This ensures all parties remain connected and well-informed.
  • File Sharing: A vital feature for distributing background documents, questionnaires, and other materials that vendors need to complete and return. This simplifies the process of disseminating information to all potential suppliers.
  • Document Collection and Tracking: Tools should allow for the efficient collection and organization of documents submitted by vendors, such as certificates of insurance, proof of incorporation, and responses to RFx documents. This capability is crucial for maintaining an organized and accessible record of all submissions.
  • Deadline Tracking: Given that all RFx processes operate within specific timeframes, the ability to track deadlines and ensure timely submissions and responses is indispensable. This helps maintain the momentum of the procurement process and ensures adherence to project timelines.
  • Security and Confidentiality: Protecting the integrity and confidentiality of shared information is paramount. Remember, you and your potential supplier are sharing sensitive information. RFx tools must offer robust security measures to safeguard sensitive data exchanged between your organization and potential suppliers.

It’s important to recognize that RFxs diverge from traditional external collaborations in a couple of ways, mostly because there’s a natural or organic structure to RFx Projects.  

RFx projects have a lot of structure, RFx Tools need to support structure!

Consider the graphic above, that organic structure, which is fundamentally a back-and-forth between procurement teams and vendors, has the following characteristics:

  • Timeframe: RFx processes often extend over long periods, necessitating tools that can adapt to changing timelines and requirements without compromising the integrity of the procurement process. 
  • “Request For” Consistency: The content each potential vendor will provide as part of the RFI or RFP will be similar. The team needs to ensure there’s consistency across the requests. This goes beyond simple document-level consistency (i.e., the RFI spreadsheet looks the same for everyone) and extends to consistency across document requests, deadlines, and the structure of the entire submission. 
  • Vendor Submission-Level Visibility: For each potential vendor, the procurement team needs to have real-time visibility into the status of required submissions, allowing procurement teams to monitor progress, identify potential delays, and address them proactively. Also, there needs to be control over the back-and-forth flow of information throughout the entire process.
  • Manage Multiple Submissions: With several vendors participating in each RFx, the capability to efficiently manage concurrent interactions becomes essential. Tools should segment communication, file sharing, and document collection to streamline vendor management. In addition, there should be a quick way to gain visibility across the entire set of submissions.  
  • Transparency: Procurement decisions, especially large purchases, have added concerns about fairness, transparency, and integrity. Keeping all communications between the procurement team and the potential supplier in one place helps the procurement team avoid the appearance of impropriety. It also preserves the content for audit or regulatory review if decisions are called into question. 

An RFx tool needs to support this organic structure on multiple levels.

TakeTurns provides the structure your RFx Projects need
  • Vendor: For each vendor, there should be one place for them to access the documents (MNDA, RFx package, etc.), document requests, communicate with procurement, and make their submissions. This organization helps maintain clarity and efficiency throughout the procurement process. 
  • Exchange or Flow: By adding some structure to flow between the two teams, it’s easy for both parties to understand their next required action. This cuts down on misunderstandings and ensures that all inquiries, requests, and responses are properly documented (necessary for transparency purposes) and addressed promptly.
  • RFx-project Level: Efficiently managing interactions with multiple vendors simultaneously requires tools that can segment and track each vendor's progress, submissions, and communications, ensuring that the procurement team can maintain oversight and fairness.

Given these characteristics, where do RFx tools fit today? 

Existing Tools: Too Much, Too Little, and Just Right 

Today, especially when it comes to structure, it seems that there are three methods of dealing with an RFx. 

  • Too Much: The highly structured method employed by strategic sourcing software. 
  • Tool Little: There's the almost unstructured method of using documents, spreadsheets, and email where all the logistical administration is done manually. 
  • Just Right: External collaboration tools represent a balanced solution, assuming neither excessive structure nor a lack of it is conducive to scalable and efficient RFx management.

The key determinants for choosing from these tools are quantity and complexity. 

  • Complexity: While all RFxs will benefit from some structure, the more complex the RFx, the more important the structure becomes. 
  • Quantity: If your team is executing thousands of RFx projects a year, and those RFx are broadly similar, the ability to automate and scale becomes quite important. 
The number and complexity of RFx projects drives tool choice

Too Much: Strategic Sourcing Solutions

Strategic Sourcing Solutions are designed to bring efficiency and standardization to the procurement process. For organizations that are prosecuting thousands of RFx projects annually, these tools are worth a hard look.  One reason is that these tools often come with prebuilt components that can be configured to automate the RFx process.  That automation is valuable when teams are dealing with thousands of similar RFx annually. However, the structured nature of these tools can sometimes be a double-edged sword. The rigidity makes it hard to handle the nuances of specific procurement scenarios. 


  • Efficiency and Speed: Once the solutions have been configured properly, the platform can speed up the RFx process. This is very valuable if you’re doing thousands or tens of thousands of the same RFxs a year. 
  • Compliance and Standardization: Helps ensure all suppliers are evaluated against the same criteria, improving fairness and transparency.
  • Data Analysis: Easier to compare responses and analyze data systematically, which can lead to more informed decision-making.


  • Significant Setup: The platforms do less well in high complexity low volume scenarios. The reason is that the setup burden does not result in any automation/scale. 
  • Flexibility: May not accommodate unique project requirements or allow for a nuanced understanding of proposals.
  • Complexity and User Experience: Highly structured tools can be complex to navigate, potentially slowing down the process if users require extensive training. Bear in mind that users aren’t just procurement staff but also include internal SMEs, external consultants, procurement staff, and the team responding from each vendor. 

Too Little: Email

On the other end of the spectrum, unstructured methods like email are flexible, inexpensive, and ubiquitous. Email allows procurement professionals to tailor their communications and processes to fit the unique aspects of each RFx and the participating vendors. Moreover, unlike Strategic Sourcing Suites, you won’t need to train the vendor on how to use the online submission tools (or the internal SMEs on how to use the built-in evaluation tools!). 

However, email and similar unstructured methods (email + file sharing or document collection tools) can lead to disorganization, information overload, and a higher risk of errors. Plus, it quickly becomes untenable at any level of volume simply due to the lack of organization and structure.  Not only does email become painful as the number of RFx projects increases, but it also limits how many concurrent RFx projects can be executed. 


  • Flexibility: Allows for more nuanced communication and the ability to easily adjust to specific needs or changes of the RFx, participating vendors, and internal SMEs.
  • Ease of Use: Familiarity with email reduces the learning curve and can expedite the initial stages of communication.


  • Risk of Information Overload: Managing RFx processes through email can become unwieldy, with high risks of missed information or disorganization.
  • Difficulty in Comparison: Without a standardized format, comparing and analyzing proposals can be more time-consuming and less accurate.

Just Right: External Collaboration Tools

External collaboration tools strike a balance between the highly structured and the unstructured, aiming to offer "just right" solutions. These tools are crafted to accommodate the nuanced needs of RFx processes without imposing the rigid structures of strategic sourcing software or the chaos of email. They are designed to bring the best of both worlds: enough structure to streamline the process and enough flexibility to handle a variety of RFx scenarios.

The structure provided by External Collaboration Tools (such as TakeTurns), is valuable for more complex RFxs, even at low volume.  At the same time, these tools sit in a sweet spot of volume between the two extremes of email and strategic sourcing suites. 


  • Scalable Customization: These tools are adaptable to the scope and scale of RFx projects, whether you are managing a handful or hundreds of projects annually.
  • Maintains context for all participants: Typical RFx processes involve dozens of people from inside and outside your organization. Having all the content and communications in one place helps provide context to those new joiners.   
  • User-Friendly Interface: They prioritize ease of use to minimize the learning curve, making it easier for all users to adopt the platform quickly.
  • Integrated Communication: Centralized communication channels within these tools reduce the need for disparate email threads, bringing all correspondence into one traceable and manageable location.


  • Intermediate Learning Curve: While more intuitive than strategic sourcing tools, these platforms may still require some training to leverage all their capabilities effectively.
  • Limited automation: For teams doing thousands of RFx projects annually, most external collaboration tools lack the automation capabilities to obtain that ‘next level’ of efficiencies.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, finding RFx tool that’s “just right” for your requires a balance between structured efficiency and adaptable flexibility. Such tools not only streamline the procurement process but also enhance transparency, manageability, and vendor engagement. As your organization navigates the procurement landscape, consider these critical capabilities to select a tool that best fits your RFx project needs


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