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How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Access Control Systems

All types of businesses today need security systems, and access control is the go-to option. But implementing an access control system for the first time can be a tricky process to navigate! Business leaders may have questions about how to find qualified access control vendors, how a vendor might solve their industry-specific needs, among others. One way many organizations and businesses tackle this process is by creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an Access Control system, and then sending that document to a handful of access control companies.

What is a Request for Proposal?

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document created by an organization or business in order to outline and summarize their needs for a specific project. Essentially, an organization will write an RFP with the intention of sending it to a number of vendors who offer the product or service the organization is looking to soon implement. 

For instance, say a business needs an access control security system for their business location. They can choose to write an RFP that summarizes their needs in terms of access control. Then, that business would send the RFP to certain access control vendors asking them to “propose” a project solution. 

A request for proposal can be beneficial for both the organization in need of a product/service and the vendor offering that product/service. The organization gets to compare a list of vendors who can complete their job and pick the best-suited option. At the same time, the vendor gets to reap the benefits of the sale and win new business.

Why use an RFP for Access Control System?

RFPs can be very helpful for access control system projects. They help businesses get a better picture of how well each vendor can complete their project, as well as efficiently compare prices. RFPs also deliver transparency for both the organization and vendor. Since the business clearly outlines what they need in terms of their access control system, the vendor can better understand the scope of the project. On the other hand, when vendors respond to the RFP with a proposal, it can help the organization better understand how each vendor will solve their access control needs and make a smarter decision. 

Writing Guidelines

An RFP for an access control system should be written formally, comprehensively, and as clearly as possible. If you are the organization, your goal when writing your RFP is for the vendor to have no questions in terms of what you are looking for with your access control system.

There are two ways you can go about writing an Access Control RFP. 

  1. Exact: If you know exactly what kind of access control system your organization needs, you can request an “exact” solution. Your RFP will include details about what kind of door reader, authentication methods, locks, and other security items you need. Based on their business’s offerings, vendors will either be able to accommodate your request or not.
  2. Elicit Proposal: If you are more flexible with your access control system request, you can ask vendors to propose a type of system. In your RFP, you will focus on the end result and desired solution, rather than specifying an exact product. For instance, you might ask a vendor for a touch-free, remotely managed system. Then, vendors can compete by proposing solutions.

Which Industries Typically use RFPs?

Any business or organization can use a request for proposal to make a decision on an access control system if they wish to do so. However, in certain industries, using an RFP is a standard when making a decision on an essential product, such as an access control system. Some industries and types of organizations that might use an RFP for an access control system are:

How to Prepare to Write an RFP

Writing an Access Control RFP might seem like a huge, complicated task – but it doesn’t need to be! We are here to help. Creating an effective Access Control RFP comes down to good preparation and good communication with your team. Spending a little time brainstorming before you write your Access Control RFP will pay off in the end. You’ll submit a clear, descriptive Request to access control vendors, who will reply with proposals that fit your exact needs. Here are the steps we suggest you take to prepare to write your Access Control RFP:

1. Research.

Researching access control systems is so important when it comes to writing an RFP, and deciding on an access control security system for that matter. Before you dive into the project, you will want to know:

This knowledge will help you determine which access control system is right for you. You’ll be thankful you did this thorough research in the end!

2. Meet with your team to discuss. 

Once you’ve done some initial research, you will want to meet with other team members in your organization. The goal is to communicate and come to an understanding of the team’s access control needs. During this meeting, you can gauge important things like which types of authentication methods they prefer (ie. key cards? Mobile app?) and what type of door readers you might need. 

Note: certain organizations may require certain types of access control system for industry standards, security measures, and protocols. This meeting is a good time to hash out these guidelines.

3. Decide on a type of access control system.

What kind of conclusion did your team come to during your meeting? Did you figure out exactly what kind of access control system you need, or are you more solution-driven?

When discussing access control needs for your RFP, some teams are sure of exactly what kind of access control system they need. In this case, you will want to take note of your team’s requests for specifics, like authentication methods and door readers, so you can include them in the written document.

If your team is looking for a solution but is flexible on specifics such as reader types, you can also allow the proposing company to suggest a solution based on your needs. This method may ultimately cost less than requesting a hyper-specific system.

4. Determine the scale of your project.

Before writing your RFP, you will need to determine the scale and scope of your access control project. For instance, are you looking to install your access control system in one business location, or do you have several locations? Organizations who have several locations will need to take note of how many buildings they need to secure and how many entryways at each location. Then, you will need to find a software that allows you to manage access control across all locations remotely from a centralized location. This is all information you should include in your final RFP, so hashing this out before writing the Request is ideal.

5. Establish a budget and deadline.

It’s important to establish a budget when preparing to write your RFP. How much are you willing to spend overall? Consider things such as how many doors you need to secure, how many users will require access, and what type of authentication methods you may be using. You will also want to establish a timeline in order to tell vendors when you need the project completed by. This will help access control vendors to provide you with a more detailed proposal.

6. Find potential providers and compare.

At this stage, you will want to look up specific access control manufacturers and providers. Come up with a tentative list of vendors that may be able to accommodate your request. Who are your ideal vendors to work with and why? We also recommend contacting each company with a preliminary phone call or email, to see if they would hypothetically be able to handle your request.

7. Write your RFP.

Now that you have all the details hashed out, it’s time to write your proposal! The document you create will include all the details you’ve already brainstormed, so writing it should be a piece of cake! Be sure to have a professional review the document before submitting to ensure it reads formally and contains no errors.

8. Submit your RFP.

After finalizing your Access Control RFP, you will submit the document to a handful of access control vendors who you wish to respond with a proposal. Normally, you will send your RFP document in an email to each access control company. There are also online tools that can provide you with RFP templates as well as management tools to facilitate the process. When submitting your RFP, make sure to include contact information for your organization so vendors know how to submit their proposals to you.

RFP Template for Access Control System

Need a little help with your Access Control RFP? No problem! We’ve created an easy-to-use template for your convenience, which you can use to get started on writing your RFP. Below you can find the template, along with the sections we recommend including in any Access Control RFP:

  1. Title page: Including a title page is always professional and effective. Include your organization name (and logo if preferred), physical address, website, contact email address, phone number, and date completed.
  2. Table of Contents: This is helpful for vendors for organizational purposes. It can help vendors who review the RFP to easily navigate the document.
  3. Organization details: First, you will want to include the details of your organization. You can include information such as the organization’s background, history, whether or not you currently use a security system, and other important information to the project. 
  4. Project Overview and Scope: This is where you will explain the nature of the access control system project. Why are you looking for a new system? What problems do you face and what solutions are you looking for? What are your desired results? You should also include information such as how many locations/buildings will be included in your system, the layout of your building(s), door types, number of doors, number of readers, number of users, security needs, entry methods, etc. Be as clear as possible.
  5. Desired system features: Do you know exactly what type of access control system you want? If so, here you can outline your desired features. For instance, in terms of user authentication, you might request fingerprint scanners for certain doors and key fobs for others. You might also require software where you can manage the system remotely using your desktop computer. Again, be as descriptive as possible so the vendor can adequately respond to your requests. 
  6. Vendor requirements: Here, you should state what you expect from the vendor. For instance, do you expect to have a one-on-one project manager? Do you require a warranty? What is your expectation for issuing new “keys”? 
  7. Training and Maintenance: What are your expectations in terms of training and maintenance? Do you need your supplier to perform ongoing updates and maintenance for you? Note that many suppliers do offer this, so if this is something you could benefit from, be sure to include it in your Request.
  8. Budget: Here, you will state your maximum budget for the project. Make sure you do your research before determining your max price, so that vendors can adequately accommodate you.
  9. Timeline: Establish an expected timeline for the RFP process as well as the project. In terms of the RFP process, include the due date for proposal submissions, follow-up questions, finalist selections, and vendor announcement. In terms of the project, include things like when the vendor will need to start installation, when you expect them to train your staff, and when you need the system up and running.
  10. Questions: If your team has questions you would like vendors to respond to, make sure to list them out here.
  11. Contact information and submission instructions: Be sure to include where and how vendors should submit their proposals, and to whom. Also include contact information for the professional in charge of the RFP process.

Compare Access Control Prices

Writing an RFP for an access control system can be very effective, but it also can be a long and drawn out process. If you are looking for a shortcut to the Access Control System RFP process, we can help! 

Our online service is designed to match you with access control vendors suited to your organization’s specific needs. Just answer a few questions about your desired access control system. Then, we’ll connect you with up to 5 qualified vendors that can support your needs. Then you get to compare and make a decision – it’s that easy! Get started here.

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