RFP shouldn’t mean “Request for Problems”

Particularly with the changes that are coming in a post-Coronavirus economy, making the right choices about your organization’s customer & enterprise communications technology and solutions can be an existential matter.  Good decisions can mean a productive workforce that maintains productivity despite a shift in their work locations, and customers who continue to engage with your company and (most importantly) do business with you.  Bad choices have the opposite impact in a time when the stakes could not be higher.

RFPs to the Rescue?

RFPs are a standard part of the process many enterprises and organizations use to acquire communications and customer experience technologies. At its best, the RFP process can be a useful tool to help procure outcomes and the technologies that enable them, at a competitive price…at its worst, it can be the cause of misery, destruction, and waste like few other forces on earth.

I have seen many RFP processes that resulted in poor solution choices. In most cases, the organizations that ran them spent more time and money trying to turn their bad choice into a good one (spoiler alert – it rarely, if ever, works). How do you avoid this happening?

Here are 3 of the biggest pitfalls that beset the RFP process, and some tips that will help your organization avoid them:

Not knowing your ‘What’
One of the best pieces of RFP advice I have ever gotten was “Tell your prospective vendors what you need and let them tell you how they are going to give it to you.”  All too often vendors are forced to work with a loosely defined “what”.  If you do not have or cannot articulate both a complete understanding of requirements from all your stakeholders and where you are trying to go, there is no chance that your vendors can get you there.  Make sure that you truly understand your specific operational, financial, and technical requirements, and be able to rank them in order of importance.  In the event that no respondent can meet all your requirements, you will need to know the difference between which are nice to have, and which are make-or-break.

Being  Unclear
Even if you truly understand your requirements, you must be able to articulate them in a way the makes your “what” crystal-clear to your vendors.  Put simply, a badly written RFP has no hope of resulting in a good outcome for your organization.  Treat higher-value RFPs like you would an expensive construction project – trust a professional to do it right and let them assume the risk of producing a great outcome.

Not having the expertise to truly understand the responses (and if they’ll really work)
The reality of business today is that we are all required to do more with less. In the IT world, this often manifests itself in organizations requiring people to carry multiple responsibilities that prohibit deep expertise in specific technology areas. This lack of deep expertise can have massive consequences for the RFP process if it means moving forward with a proposal that you do not thoroughly understand.

Why does all this matter?
In addition to the organizational risks of badly selected, implemented, and operationalized technology solutions – and they are many – there is significant personal risk involved as well for those who make the choice to introduce those technologies.  Good technology implementations and migrations can make a career, but a poor migration can end one.

The most important piece of advice I can give is this – If you have concerns that your organization could fall victim to any of the above common pitfalls, get help.  Any front-end investment that results in a great technology choice will pale in comparison to the cost of recovering from a bad one.

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Axim specializes in Enterprise Communications Transformation, from cloud to legacy technology to customer experience.

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