6 tips to enable great outcomes from your enterprise technology RFP
With the economic pullback created by the global response to the Coronavirus, insuring that your organization makes smart choices about technologies and services that enable doing more with less is more important than ever. In normal circumstances, RFPs are important tools that enable enterprises to acquire the communications and customer experience technologies needed to grow revenues, customer loyalty and competitive advantage; in today’s new business reality conducting successful RFPs can be a truly existential matter.
Despite its important role, too often the RFP process fails. A poor process often leads to a poor solution choice, which in turn can create misery, destruction, and waste. The result? Organizations then spend more time and money trying to turn a bad choice into a good one (don’t go there). Here are six things you can do to help ensure your RFP delivers the outcome you need:
Understand and Document your requirements.
Start by understanding your current environment, and your operational, technical, and financial requirements that define the right next solution. Never assume that you know what other constituent groups need – work cross-functionally to get an authentic definition of what good looks like to all of the involved stakeholders. Take a thorough appraisal of your current relevant technologies, the needs of those who use them, and the financial priorities for the organization(s) that will be funding the new solution. Be crystal clear about your ‘what’ before you ask your vendors ‘how’.
Create Total Clarity to your RFP.
Translate the requirements into a procurement document that clearly describes the solution(s) you require. Make sure that you describe all aspects of what you need, or be prepared to live without some of them. Not certain that you have written a solicitation that will result in good responses? Consider releasing an RFI first, and use the responses to hone your RFP into a precise instrument.
Bring More Science to your Scorecard.
Considering all aspects of a proposed solution, construct a scorecard that includes all of the characteristics of the best response. Apply appropriate weighting to each response to ensure that scoring favors the most important requirements (all requirements are not created equal). In all likelihood you will need to forego certain requirements in the name of timeline, price, and complexity; make sure that you know which requirements can be sacrificed and which are critical parts of the outcome you need.
Deliver Vendor Review Support
You will have to live with the decision you make (and its consequences) for a significant period of time. Ensure that you have the expertise to effectively go beyond sales presentations to identify technical and operational gaps, risks, and shortcomings that will make the difference between a great outcome and a decision that you wish you could undo.
Ensure Procurement and Contract Insight
Make sure that you have experience with the responders and their financial models to negotiate the best possible contract. Engage people who understand the vendors specific discounting thresholds and their licensing, services, and support models to ensure that you are not only choosing the best response but getting the best possible value for your organization.
Drive Effective Governance
Create a strong governance model to make sure that the contract, implementation, and ongoing delivery match what you were promised for the duration of the contract. While the many of the winning vendor’s responsibilities end once the chosen solution is deployed, yours are just beginning. Make certain that you have the people, tools, and process in place to hold vendors accountable for your long-term success. Doing this well means maintaining predictability of delivery and avoiding scope creep, change requests, operations issues, and unexpected costs over the lifetime of the chosen solution.
One last thought
The benefits of this process go beyond the delivery of a more effective RFP, to corporate reputation. Organizations are understandably so focused on getting the best and the most for the least, they often don’t see the amount of work that potential vendors put into the process. A poorly run RFP can eat up time and create massive frustrations on both sides, and impact vendors’ willingness to engage in future activities, which means fewer choices and less leverage for future buying decisions. A well-structured process built around a clear RFP, a well-honed scorecard, a detailed vendor review, and an informed procurement process will reflect positively on your organization and its reputation. While it won’t take away the pain of losing a bid, it will make vendors more prepared to bid again in the future.