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How to improve the RFP process

Chakra Devalla, CEO, tekVision | April 4, 2016
Getting it right the first time saves time and trouble. Three simple strategies to make the process more effective.

Although vendor-written, this contributed piece does not promote a product or service and has been edited and approved by Executive Networks Media editors.

Requests for Proposal (RFPs) are rarely easy or even straightforward. No one wants to forget anything, so RFPs typically become long, unwieldy lists of questions -- the proverbial kitchen sink.

And that translates into even more work when the answers come back -- hours and hours of scrutinizing answers to narrow down the field to the short list.  Sadly enough, all too often the RFP process raises even more questions and adds to general confusion. It’s not uncommon for a business to re-issue an RFP for a second round due to inadequate submissions.

Getting it right the first time would save a great deal of time and trouble for both the business and the vendors. This requires a closer look at the actual RFP. Three simple strategies can make the process more effective.

Streamline the RFP

Do you really need hundreds of answers to decide if a vendor is worth considering? Cut down the questions to the essential information you need to make a decision.

One of the most common complaints about the process is repetition of information. Go through the RFP and tag questions that are similar then consolidate them into one question.

Avoid tech rat holes and stay focused on business benefits. Vendors are all too happy to focus on feature comparisons and discuss how their widget is better than their competitors’. The discussion gets too granular, focusing on supporting points as opposed to the main argument – how will this product or service benefit your business. Develop questions that keep the answers at the benefit level and avoid descending into mind-numbing tech talk.

Focus every question on your key objectives for the evaluation – business benefit, cost, ROI, deployment timeframe, support, proof the solution will work and remedies if it does not. If a question does not directly answer your objective, remove it.

User case vs. feature laundry list

Responses to RFPs can feel like product manuals. Often the questions are a big part of the problem, all but asking vendors to cut-and-paste product feature lists and content from manuals into the RFP. Consider asking for user case studies that illustrate how the solution has helped other companies. This can significantly cut down questions and streamline the responses.

If a particular tech feature is important for your evaluation, ask for it specifically. “Do you have a cloud option?” “What video conferencing capabilities do you offer?” “How many users can the solution support?” Keep the question focused on what is important to you.

Ask for use cases that show how the solution might benefit your organization. Not only companies within your same vertical industry, but also similar in size or trying to solve similar issues.

 

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