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Good RFPs lead to better proposals

white arrows painted on ashpalt

Get all suppliers headed in the same direction.

Is a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quote (RFQ) in your future? To make sure that your RFP does not become a “Request for Problems,” consider the following advice:

  1. Engage the right team. Include a cross-section of stakeholders to develop the RFP and to evaluate proposals. 
  2. Send the RFP only to 2-3 qualified parties. By the time you reach the RFP stage, you should have a good idea of which suppliers can best meet your needs. Do not waste the supplier’s or your time just to get pricing information.
  3. State the evaluation criteria up front. Share the “high level” criteria such as fit with business needs, ease of use, supplier qualifications, etc. Spare the details.
  4. Provide project background information. This sets the stage and gives the supplier a reference point.
  5. Provide a proposal outline or response template. This  permits you to compare proposals on a level playing field. A clear outline will elicit better responses and a template should make responses easier to evaluate.  Limit the response length in certain areas as you see fit.
  6. Make it easy for the supplier to respond. Be specific with your request for information.  Avoid asking for superfluous information, and instruct the supplier to be brief.
  7. Provide a single point of contact. Typically, Supply Chain or Procurement is the contact. The single contact will ask the end-user of the product/service for help in answering questions in their domain. This levels the playing field and keeps politics out of the equation as much as possible.
  8. Request customer references–and check them! Assume that suppliers give only positive references. If you have contacts within other organization, then call them as well. Ask the same questions of each reference, including questions like, “Would you choose this supplier if you had to do it again?”
  9. Impose a “quiet period” from the RFP issue date through supplier selection.
  10. Provide feedback to ALL suppliers. After selecting a supplier, remember to give feedback to those who did not win the bid. Surprising, many organizations forget this common courtesy.

See the IT Insight archives for further reading on this and other topics related to software evaluation, selection and life cycle management

© 2013 Lexicon Systems, LLC.

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Vendor reference call do’s and don’ts

In my 25 June 2012 post I introduced due diligence for software initiatives. When your organization issues a Request for Proposal (RFP), you should ask each vendor to supply customer contact information to allow due diligence. Here are twelve do’s and don’ts for reference calls…

  • Do speak with reference customers with business needs and/or implementation scope similar to yours.
  • Don’t extend each call beyond 30 minutes. Respect the software customer’s time.
  • Do prepare a list of questions that you need answered, and use it as a guideline.
  • Do use a combination of closed- and open-ended questions to allow you to gather good information you might not have anticipated before the call.
  • Don’t ask questions related to confidential contract information such as license or subscription fees or implementation costs.
  • Do ask what some of the greatest challenges were with the software project.
  • Do ask the customer if s/he would select the software and/or implementer if s/he could do it over again.
  • Do keep the number of people on each reference call from your organization to a minimum.
  • Do have the same people in your organization participate in each reference call.
  • Do consider whether you are speaking with a beta customer who adopted the software early, vs. a customer that implemented software when it was more mature.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask a reference customer to provide a short Web or face-to-face demo of the software in action.
  • Don’t limit yourself the references that the vendor provides. If you know someone within another customer’s organization, make a phone call.