The EXA Way Supplement

Deconstructing Evaluation Criteria

Page 96

The EXA Way Supplement is the online companion to Win Big The EXA Way: The Comprehensive Guide to Capture and Proposal Leadership.  This Supplement provides amplifying information, practical examples, and useful exercises that reinforce the principles addressed in the book.


It is important to parse the RFP to analyze the different parts. It is common to find evaluation criteria in the resulting contract clauses section of the RFP, or proposal preparation instructions in the statement of work. If you do not parse every line carefully, you risk missing serious requirements that could render your proposal non-compliant.

This Supplement provides real-world examples of actual RFP documents. You can decode each phrase into its RFP parts.


Let’s start with a review of the five parts of the RFP.

The Solicitation

The solicitation provides the mandate that empowers the procurement authority to request proposals from bidders. It is the legal framework that invokes Contract A (See Section 3.1 of the Guide, Canadian Procurement Law).  


The solicitation typically includes several important elements:

  •      It identifies the document as a “Request for Proposal” document, or some other recognized solicitation document (RFSA, RFSO, etc.).
  •      It usually has a code or number that uniquely identifies it.
  •      It has both the date of issue and the date of solicitation closing.
  •      It identifies the name of the procurement authority.
  •      It defines, by reference or inclusion, any annexes, appendices, and attachments.
  •      The solicitation may also identify specific requirements related to the solicitation process and/or contract
  •      Security requirements
  •      Bidders’ conferences
  •      Foreign ownership restrictions
  •      Indigenous business participation

The front page of an actual RFP, below, forms part of the solicitation that invites bidders to submit a proposal.

1.1.1 Proposal Preparation Instructions

The Proposal Preparation Instructions (PPI) explicitly describe and define the format, structure, content, media, copies, and delivery requirements of the proposal document. The PPIs stipulate:  

  •      Where, when, and how you must deliver the proposal
  •      The documents you must include in the proposal
  •      Sometimes page limits of specific documents or of the entire proposal
  •      What language(s) the proposal may be written in
  •      The structure, organization, and content of the proposal documents, often by volume and section
  •      The media format of the proposal documents (electronically transmitted, hard copy, CD-ROM, USB drive) and the number of copies of each media type for each volume and section
  •      The type of information (financial, management, technical, etc.) that goes into the various volumes
  •      Mandatory content (content that is not included in the evaluation criteria, but is mandatory to submit a compliant proposal)
  •      Bid conferences, presentations, meetings, or other activities bidders must or should attend
  •      Methods of communication with the procurement authority
  •      Standards, principles, and rules the bidder follows while preparing the proposal
  •      Other submission requirements

The excerpt from an actual RFP, below, shows an example of PPIs.

1.1.2 Statement of Work

The Statement of Work (SOW) completely defines and describes the work the resulting contractor will carry out under the contract. The SOW describes and defines:

  •      The purpose, scope, location, and period of the work
  •      Tasks, activities, deliverables, inputs, outputs, and outcomes
  •      Milestones and schedules
  •      Applicable technical, operational, and performance standards, practices, specifications, interfaces, regulations, and legislation
  •      Required management, technical, and operational interfaces
  •      Personnel qualifications and accreditation requirements
  •      Organizational qualifications and requirements
  •      Other requirements

The following excerpt form an actual RFP shows an example of an SOW.

1.1.3 Evaluation Criteria and Basis of Selection 

The evaluation criteria define and describe the process and means by which evaluators will screen proposals against mandatory evaluation criteria and score proposals against rated evaluation criteria.

The basis of selection defines and describes the process and means by which the procurement authority will integrate the technical, management, financial, offset, and other scores into a final score and select the winning proposal based on the bidders’ final scores.

The following excerpt is an example of evaluation criteria: 

The following excerpt is from an actual RFP showing the basis of selection.


1.1.4 Resulting Contract Clause

The Resulting Contract Clause (RCC) defines the terms and conditions that will apply to the resulting contract. These generally include, but are not limited to the following:

  •      Auditing
  •      Basis of payment
  •      Economic price adjustments
  •      Government-furnished equipment, information, and material
  •      Intellectual property ownership and licensing
  •      Invoicing and payment
  •      Liability and insurance
  •      Performance incentives and penalties
  •      Security requirements
  •      Subcontracting and subcontract replacements
  •      Travel and living expenses
  •      Warranties

RCCs differ from the SOW in that the SOW dictates how the contractor must perform and deliver the work, whereas the RCC dictates the terms and conditions of the resulting contract. The following excerpt from an actual RFP showing an RCC.

1.2 Exercises

This exercise will help you decode RFP elements into their correct categories. All these exercises use excerpts from actual RFPs. I edited them slightly for readability, but the text appears exactly as it does in the RFPs.

Be warned – some of these exercises are tricky. That is the point. RFPs can be very shifty.

In each of the following exercises, carefully parse the excerpts into elements, and then decide if each element is a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, or RCC.   

The solutions to the exercises appear at the end of this section.

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

Categorize the following excerpt into a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, or RCC.

Exercise 3

Categorize the following excerpt into a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, or RCC.

Exercise 4

Categorize the following excerpt into a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, or RCC.

Exercise 5

Categorize the following excerpt into a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, or RCC.

Exercise 6

Categorize the following excerpt into a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, or RCC.

1.3 Solutions

 Exercise 1

Exercise 1 is an example of sloppy RFP writing.  Nowhere else in this particular RFP package will you find instructions that explain what information the bidder must submit with respect to these criteria.  The RFP embeds the PPIs in the evaluation criteria section. You commonly encounter these sloppy shortcuts in RFPs.

All the elements in Exercise 1 describe what the bidder must include in the proposal. Therefore, they are all PPIs.

Only element M1 could be characterized as an evaluation criterion because only M1 identifies how the evaluators will assess the response to M1. Therefore, M1 is both a PPI and an Evaluation Criterion and M2 through M6 are PPIs only. This is the correct answer.

The prudent Proposal Leader will also declare M2 through M6 as mandatory evaluation criteria because it is important to maintain traceability to all the RFP evaluation criteria in the PDRL. Therefore, M1 through M6 are all PPI and evaluation criteria.  This is the best answer.  

Note – the omission of M5 is not a typo – that is how it appeared in the RFP.

Lesson Learned

Just because an RFP says it is an evaluation criterion does not make it an evaluation criterion.  But you should still track anything the RFP declares as an evaluation criterion because the evaluators will expect to see a response even to non-sensical evaluation criteria.

Exercise 2

This is a compound requirement, meaning there are several requirement elements embedded in this excerpt. The solution chart below breaks the original paragraph into its distinct solution elements.

The first paragraph is a PPI. It instructs the bidder what information to include in the proposal document.  

The first sentence of the second paragraph is a customer action that describes the process the procurement authority will undertake as part of the evaluation process. It is not an evaluation criterion – it does not explain how the evaluation committee will assess your proposal.

The second sentence of the second paragraph is a special case PPI. It is called a ‘post-delivery PPI’, meaning it instructs the bidder what information to present after it submits the original proposal.

It is important to distinguish PPIs from post-delivery PPIs in the PDRL so that you know which elements you are required to include in the proposal document with the initial bid submission.  

Lesson Learned

Decompose paragraphs and sentences into individual requirement elements. Do not assume that, because the first sentence of a paragraph is a PPI, that the whole paragraph is a PPI.

Exercise 3

This paragraph is another compound requirement, but this one has five distinct elements.  The solution chart below breaks the original paragraph into its elements.

The first three elements are PPIs. It is important to record these as separate PPIs in the PDRL because each PPI addresses distinctively different requirements.

The fourth element is a customer action that describes the process the procurement authority will undertake as part of the evaluation process. It is not an evaluation criterion – it does not explain how the evaluation committee will assess your proposal.  

The fifth element is a SOW that describes the work the winning bidder must perform under the resulting contract.

There are five elements in this excerpt, and none of them is an evaluation criterion, in spite of the RFP heading.

Lesson Learned

Do not trust RFP headings. Just because a requirement falls under the mandatory criteria heading does not mean it is a mandatory criterion.

Exercise 4

This is another example of a compound requirement.

The first element is a PPI because it defines what the bidder must include in the proposal document. Note that the language implies the bidder might be allowed to provide this information after bid submission, because it states the procurement authority requires the information to award a contract. I would not rely on this interpretation.

The second element is both an evaluation criterion and an RCC because it applies to both the proposal (an evaluation criterion) and to the contract (a resulting contract clause). The PDRL should record this element as both an evaluation criteria and an RCC.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes requirement elements can fall into more than one category at the same time.

Exercise 5

This is an especially nasty compound requirement. The SOW describes the work the contractor must do after winning the bid. The RFP buries a hidden mandatory PPI deep within the SOW.  Worse, it is a mandatory PPI because the sentence uses the word ‘must’.

The proposal writer has no earthly reason to read through the SOW when looking for PPIs to define the elements required in the bid document. EXA found this PPI requirement during our PDRL scan of the RFP.

In our proposal, we stated:

  • We include this response to the mandatory RFP requirement because failing to do so would render a proposal non-compliant. 

We used this language in the bid to provoke evaluators to look through other bidders’ proposals and check if they also responded to the hidden requirement. EXA’s client was the only compliant bidder. We will never know if that hidden PPI contributed to other bidders’ failures, but I do know that our client would have submitted a non-compliant bid without responding to this hidden PPI.

My client asked me if PSPC did this on purpose – did they deliberately try to trip up bidders? I borrowed a line from Napoleon Bonaparte: never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

Lesson Learned

If you do not parse the entire RFP in fine detail, you may miss hidden requirements that are critical to your bid.  

Exercise 6

This table is mislabeled. The “Description” is actually the PPI.  The “Instructions to Bidders” is not PPI, as labelled, but is really the evaluation criteria.

Lesson Learned

Do not rely on the RFP’s labelling of sections and information. They are often wrong. Decide for yourself what is a solicitation, PPI, SOW, evaluation criteria, and RCC.

***Disclaimer: The information presented in this supplement is for information purposes only. It is not intended, and may not be used, as legal or business advice. The author makes no representations of warranty, accuracy, or fit for purpose of the information herein. Use at your own risk.