What Is a Payroll RFP and How Do I Create One?

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If you’ve started thinking about the mountain of work that is payroll processing, then you’re likely ready to automate parts of the process by implementing payroll software. When the time comes to select the proper system for your business you have a handy tool at your disposal to help you make your selection: a payroll RFP.

Why might you want to submit an RFP? Payroll processes are easily left out of sight and out of mind. After all, getting a paycheck in exchange for work is so ingrained in the core of running any business that few individuals ever take the time to consider all of the work that is involved with passing out those paychecks. Quite frankly, all of the hard work behind getting a paycheck every other week is often taken for granted until there’s a problem. Much of that work can be automated, helping eliminate errors and save time.

An RFP can help you find a system that helps streamline your unique payroll process. It’s often a very effective means to gather information about qualified vendors and help you to narrow down your software search.

Sounds great, but let’s talk specifics. What is an RFP and how do you craft an effective one?

What Is an RFP?

A request for proposal (RFP) is the middle sibling of the RFx family. The family includes requests for information (RFI) and requests for quote (RFQ). So what’s the story with all of these similar acronyms and how are they related?

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Request for Information

An RFI is the little sister of the RFx family. She’s still young and is playing the field — still going on lots of casual dates or even speed dating, but nothing serious yet.

Much like a casual first date, RFIs serve to gather broad information. Typically, RFIs consist of open-ended, high-level questions. They’re usually a part of the beginning steps of your search when you’re still narrowing down your requirements.

The first part of this will likely be a Google search and maybe scanning some vendor sites to see what’s out there. This basic search is like scrolling through Tinder, and once you’ve swiped right you’ll send out your RFI to all of your matches.

The RFI is part of broad information gathering. Much like beginning to date, you might still be learning what you like and what you don’t like. For example, as part of your research, you might discover that you prefer cloud-based systems to on-premise solutions. This information gathering will provide you with an overview of payroll software and its various features before you dive into a more serious product search.

Payroll RFP

Request for Proposal

It’s time to catch back up with the middle sibling of the RFx family: the RFP. The RFP is a bit older and more mature than the RFI. The RFP is ready to start getting serious about dating. The RFP is like the protagonist of “The Bachelor”, slowly working to narrow down all of the lovely ladies to find his perfect match. In order to accomplish that, the RFP needs to know more information about each individual to see who he’ll give roses to.

Either you’ve gotten responses to your RFI or you spent time reading through Google’s search results and you have an idea of what you’re looking for. Either way, you’re ready to get serious about buying software. This is where you’ll begin looking for specifics. You might have a narrowed list of vendors, courtesy of your RFI (if you created one). Now it’s time to do some digging and see which vendors are serious contenders for your payroll’s heart.

When it’s time to craft the proposal, the best practice is to be direct and specific. Tell vendors what your specific challenges and needs are. Providing vendors with these kinds of details will help them give you a specific plan for how they can meet your needs.

For example, you might tell vendors that you’re looking for a solution to address issues with compliance. This tells vendors that you need information about what they can do to ensure you are in compliance with all state and federal regulations. The more targeted your questions are, the more specific and insightful responses you’ll get.

Request for Quote

The RFQ is the oldest sibling of the RFx family. The RFQ has been on some good dates and some bad dates. The RFQ is ready for a committed relationship, and it’s ready to have the conversation about taking things to the next level.

The RFQ will give you specific information about the software’s characteristics. You’ll typically compose this after you’ve heard back from vendors in regards to your RFP and you have an idea of which vendors are at the top of your list.

Some of the specific information you might request from vendors includes pricing, deployment methods and integration capabilities. The RFQ will give you thorough details about the solution the vendor is offering. Much like with the RFP, you’ll want to be as specific as possible when developing the RFQ so that you’ll get more detailed and relevant responses from vendors.

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How to Develop Your Payroll RFP

An RFP is a formal method of gathering specific information from vendors. It gives vendors the opportunity to address your specific needs and concerns and give you information about the specific ways they can help. Much like entering the dating scene, when you begin your search for payroll products you’ll want to know what’s out there to determine what’s going to be your best match.

When putting together your RFP there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. The RFP is formal, which means that you’ll be writing in a formal business tone as well as structuring and organizing your RFP so that it is easy to navigate. You’ll also need to be specific and direct. We’ve mentioned the importance of specificity a few times now, so obviously it’s of top importance.

Constructing your RFP is no time to play coy. You know what you need software to accomplish, don’t be afraid to ask for it. You’ll also want to have a solid structure for compiling all aspects of your RFP.

RequirementsHub provides the tools to begin building your RFP and sharing with stakeholders.

Earlier we promised to talk specifics, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What type of things do you need to consider including in your RFP?


While not vital to an RFP, a bit of business background can do a lot for introducing vendors to your needs. Discussing things like what your business does, who your customers are, your values and goals can help to provide context. This will allow you to explain what challenges led you to search for software. Giving this kind of background information can also help the vendors to know more specific details about what your business needs are.


You know what you’re looking for — this is where you ask for it. Being thorough in developing your list of requirements will only help you when it comes time to actually draft your RFP. The more specific you are in compiling your list of requirements, the easier it will be to include particular issues you want vendors to address.

If you’re concerned about a systems integration capabilities, be sure to ask specific questions about how their software will integrate with the products you already use. Again, this is no time to be shy when it comes to asking for what you want. You should be clear about what goals you hope to accomplish. This is a formal request, so it should be professional — present all of your needs in a way that is structured and organized.

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Response Requirements

Give the vendor information about how you would like them to respond. Providing them with an explanation of how to structure their response will not only help them to give you the information that you’re looking for but will also help you to compare vendors once you get responses back.

Some things you might request vendors to include in their response are their summary of your proposal, the vendor’s background information, an explanation of how the vendor can meet your requirements and references from the vendor’s current clients.

You might also request that vendors provide case studies or details about the vendor’s qualifications. If you have concerns about a vendors qualifications, these are questions you’ll want to ask to put your mind at ease. Consider what information will be most valuable to you when narrowing down vendors and be sure to ask specifically for that information.


At the beginning of your search, you might develop a timeline for yourself. This might begin with your search process and end with the implementation of the new solution. You can include parts of this timeline in your RFP. Tell the vendor when you expect their response back and provide a timeframe when you’ll announce which vendor you’ve selected.

You might also include a timeframe when the vendor should be available to answer follow up questions — though if you’ve written a thorough RFP this step won’t be necessary. You should also give the vendor an expected implementation date for your new system. All of this information will help the vendor respond to you with the most accurate solution information they have.

Review your RFP with vendors, request demos and discuss pricing.

What to Do After You’ve Sent Out Your RFP

Though vendors will hopefully be answering all of your questions in their response to your RFP, you’ll still want to do your own research. Research all of the vendors you sent your RFP to get an idea of who you’re dealing with and what you can expect in the vendor’s responses. Having a good idea of which vendor you’ll select before you get their responses will put you ahead of the game.

You’ll want to have a solid base of information to help you evaluate vendors. Depending on the information you get back from vendors, you might want to ask for a walkthrough or schedule a live demo so that you can see the system in practice.

This research might seem like extra work up front. However, the real work will be in determining which vendor is the right choice. Evaluate vendors based on the product capabilities being offered, but also take into consideration other factors. Look into how frequently the vendor updates the software and what sort of self-learning options they provide. Be sure that your vendor is the total package.

All of this research will only help you to be prepared for steps later in the process. Having a good idea of what the vendors have to offer will also help you once you’ve selected which vendor you want to work with. Then, this research combined with the response from the RFP can help you draft the contract.

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The Wrap Up

An RFP is a useful tool to have in your tool kit if you’ve decided you’d like to implement a new payroll software. It allows you to gain insight into the various vendors in the market and discover what they have to offer.

It’s a lot of work, but we’re here to help. Our in-depth comparison report will help you to compare your top vendors based on a variety of factors to make the comparison process hassle-free.

It might seem like a lot of work, but using this guide will help you along the way. All in all, the fruits of your labor will be worth it once you find the right payroll software for your business.

Which vendors will you be sending your payroll RFP to? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Mariah HansenWhat Is a Payroll RFP and How Do I Create One?

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