RFQ versus RFP
If you were Noah, and you received orders from above to build the ark, you’d probably have a lot of questions: How big does it have to be? How long will we be afloat? How many cages will we need? What about provisions and storage? What about navigation and propulsion?
Noah had the benefit of divine inspiration to build his ark. Most of us, particularly in the public sector, would start by forming a committee, then developing a Request for Proposals, then interviewing several ship designers, picking one of the low bids, then crossing our fingers that what is designed will actually meet all our needs. If Noah had gone through this arduous process, chances are the rain would have started falling before the first plank was attached to the hull.
As Noah watched the waters rise, working in panic-mode, he would have wondered why he hadn’t issued a simpler Request for Qualifications, cut to the chase, hired the best he could find, and had the boat designed.
All of his questions would have been answered in the process. THEN he would have issued a Request for Proposals for construction of the ark, based on a solid set of plans.
When you want something built to certain standards and pre-defined instructions, then issuing a Request for Proposals is the best way to get the best bang for your buck, both in terms of cost and expertise. But in the wild world of consulting or design where there are no absolute parameters, and the first step is getting those specifics written up, then issuing a Request for Qualifications is the obvious thing to do.