Welcome to Real Stories from the RFP ProcessThe hash tag for this session is ts5My name is Rene Shonerd with Half Moon ConsultingI’ve been working with associations for about 12 years working with or in ITI’ve worked on several projects that involved selection of new systems some of which involved a formal RFP and some did not.The idea for this session came to me earlier this year as I was embarking on a system selection. When it came time to sit down and write the RFP, I began to look for samples. I didn’t find what I was hoping to find. So I turned to folks who see the most RFPs, the vendors. They couldn’t share samples with me due to NDA and confidential nature of those proposals. By going through this last process, I talked with many vendors about the RFP process and learned quite a bit. Today I hope to share with you some of those lessons. However, instead of listening to me, I thought it would be more interesting to hear feedback directly from those vendors in our industry.
A stage on a process Issuing a invitation to suppliers to submit a proposal for a product or service
RFI – is sometimes used as a pre qualifier to determine what solutions are available, what they are capable of, and learn of vendors who sell , can implement or support the product.RFQ – when you really are comparing apples to apples and price is the only factorEx) ordering hardwareSo as I began to put information for this session together, I put together a list of questions to guide conversations around the RFP process. He first question I asked the vendors is : RFPs love ‘em or hate’em. Why?
While reviewing previous articles and blogs in association management, I found a host of voices that chime in why they hate RFPs.Most of their criticisms of the process stem from 2 areas:One is using RFPS to evaluate consultants for services. All seem to agree that a formal RFP process is not the best process for finding a consultant to work with your association. The common recommendation seemed to be that interviews would work best.The second theme was criticisms that stem from the government procurement process and when associations try to stick to those types of rules and formalities. Were going to touch on several of those as we go through the remainder of the session.
Summary:Clear Requirements-functional-non-functionalDefined ScopeNeeds & GoalsPrioritiesDeadlinesConstraints-budget-timeline-personnel
I think the answer is “long enough”Long enough to cover all of the relevant information to give the vendor enough background so they can make an accurate assessment of if their product will be a good fit for your associations needs.Too much detail will take you into the weeds and you risk loosing the big picture of the project.Next, lets compare that to what I found in the sample of RFPs I reviewed for this session…
This image is a tag cloud representing the section headings of the RFP’s I reviewed fromASAE AMS RFP samplesASAE Web/CMS samplesASAE Managed Services/Network Services samplesAnd a few others that I created or that were passes along to me.The common elements jump out consistently:Assn Background (which appear to be copied off website or other internal documents)Contact InfoFunctional RequirementsIntro (the ask) – Project DescriptionVendor Submission RequirementsVendor Evaluation CriteriaOther items less common depending on formality of assn, type of RFP, etcIf the amount of space in pages, is any indication of effort that went into the RFP. Here is that outcome with those same RFPs…
As you can see, the Functional Requirements take up most of the printed space.As assn execs, these functional requirements allow us to prepare a list of modules, features, and functionalities needed in the project or software solution.They provide lists for us to make apples to apples comparisons between vendors. We want to ensure the vendor’s product really can do what they say or hope it really can bring those efficiencies to our business processAnd we want it in writing in the proposal as a CYA in case it doesn’t work out that way later and the boss or the board starts pointing finders.What the review shows is that sometimes, we may get carried away with this effort.So, lets take a look a what the vendors really think about those lists.
Here, Jeff found a way to smartly share the blame across all parties.OuchThis seemed to be the largest pain point for most folks. Does anyone want to chime in further on this topic?
This is the next area that seemed to cause both frustration and embarrassment on both sides of the process.Of the folks who are writing RFPs for assn, can admit to downloading a template or samples from another project and then using the find and replace function to update it for your project?Of the folks writing proposals for vendor companies, who will admit to then using the find and replace function and sending out a canned proposal?How many later realized that they missed an update (such as the acronyms) and out’ed themselves on the shortcut?
RFPs Defined<br />A request for proposal (RFP) is an early stage in a procurement process, issuing an invitation for suppliers, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. The RFP may dictate the exact structure and format of the supplier's response. Effective RFPs typically reflect the strategy and short/long-term business objectives, providing detailed insight upon which suppliers will be able to offer a matching perspective. <br />Wikipedia<br />
Other Variations<br />A request for information (RFI) is a proposal requested from a potential seller or a service provider to determine what products and services are potentially available in the marketplace to meet a buyer's needs and to know the capability of a seller in terms of offerings and strengths of the seller. RFIs are commonly used on major procurements, where a requirement could potentially be met through several alternate means. An RFI, however, is not an invitation to bid, is not binding on either the buyer or sellers, and may or may not lead to an RFP or RFQ.<br />A request for quotation (RFQ) is used when discussions with bidders are not required (mainly when the specifications of a product or service are already known) and when price is the main or only factor in selecting the successful bidder. An RFQ may also be used as a step prior to going to a full-blown RFP to determine general price ranges. In this scenario, products, services or suppliers may be selected from the RFQ results to bring in to further research in order to write a more fully fleshed out RFP.<br />RFP is sometimes used for a request for pricing.<br />Wikipedia<br />
RFPs – Love ‘em<br />“RFPs provide us a synopsis of what the prospective organization does and the vision for the future. This information allows us to respond to the requirements with an understanding of why the prospect is asking what they’re asking and what they’re moving towards. Just as important is the fact that a good RFP helps get the prospect and the vendor on the same page and provides the vendor’s implementation team with valuable information going into the project. Finally, a good RFP ensures that both the vendor and client are comfortable with the knowledge that the response to requirements has been rolled into the contract. Thus, everyone is on the same page during the entire implementation process.”<br /> Stef Hull, Euclid Technologies<br />
RFPs – Hate ‘em<br />“Many times the RFPs that we receive don’t seem to be tailored to the specific prospect. This tells us that the RFP we’ve received was:<br />passed from another association or<br />through a relationship that someone at the association has with someone who has been through the RFP process or<br />a generic template was purchased for the sake of making that part of the processes as simple as possible.”<br /> Stef Hull, Euclid Technologies<br />
Bad Press for RFPs<br />Why an RFP may guarantee You Don’t See the Best of the Best (David Gammel, 4/7/2010)<br />Speed Sourcing – new outsourcing trend worth considering (CAE weblog 05/2009)<br />The Un-RFP: A follow-up (Guilt by Association 2/2009)<br />RFP is Not a Four Letter Word (Guilt by Association 1/12/2009)<br />RFPs may increase Risk and Cost (Thought Clusters, 11/2008)<br />Are RFPs still worthwhile (Scott Oser on Acronym, 9/4/2008)<br />Why RFPs are Bad for Your Business (FLYTE Blog, 6/2008) <br />10 Reasons Why I Hate RFPs (blog.gallucci.net, 10/10/2007)<br />
Why we continue to use ‘em<br />If RFPs weren’t around, we would have to invent them. We need a clear structure to evaluate different proposals. Acronym Blog Frank Fortin, 9/12/2008<br />…when done correctly, an RFP can very clearly detail the parameters of the assignment in terms of allocated monies, benchmarks, expected outcomes, and results sought.To RFP or Not to RFP, John Cox, September 2008<br />
What RFPs should contain…<br />“A well written RFP provides vendors with a solid background of what the organization does, why they are looking for an AMS, and the organization’s vision moving forward. It also contains a requirements document (that is easily responded to) that speaks to the organization’s needs.<br />From our perspective, we like to gather as much information as possible including timelines and budgets. … We expect the same from the prospect. When both groups agree to full disclosure from the outset the proposal process is always smoother and easier to<br /> manage. When there is a reluctance to share <br />budget and timeline information we are left <br />aiming at a moving target which only ends up <br />wasting the prospect’s and our time. “<br /> Stef Hull, Euclid Technologies<br />
Functional Requirements<br />“They serve as a substitute for a truly responsible, strategic decision making process.” <br />On paper, they are open to interpretation and responding to them in a thoughtful manner takes significantly more time than RFP issuers realize.<br />If you really want a feature by feature comparison, get the info from other sources.<br />Jeff Cobb<br />A Modest Proposal: Kill the RFP<br />Digital Strategy Blog<br />
Functional Requirements<br />Where some RFPs fall apart is in the requirements section. These documents can contain way too many irrelevant and/or redundant functional requirements or sometime just not enough. Generally, poorly written RFP’s are a group’s way of saying “give me a price so that I can show it my boss and she <br />can take it to the board”.<br /> Stef Hull, Euclid Technologies<br />
Functional Requirements<br />Why we use them:<br />Stakeholders can point to them as evidence of their diligence<br />Consultants can play a role of generating them and at processing the responses<br />Sales feel they have done their job by completing them.<br />Jeff Cobb<br />A Modest Proposal: Kill the RFP<br />Digital Strategy Blog<br />
Target Go Live Date </li></li></ul><li>Reviewing the Proposals<br />Make it Eco-friendly<br />Comparison charts of vendor questionnaire<br />Comparison of features- only If not already done in RFI or prior vendor research<br />Schedule Demos – allow enough time for scheduling<br />
Demonstrations<br />An exhausting exercise for both parties<br />Vendor should be able to demonstrate anything listed as “out of the box”<br />Use scripted scenarios, when possible<br />Take detailed notes and use feedback forms<br />
Proposal Submission Requirements<br />Dumbest RFP Questions We’ve Ever Seen<br />Detail your company’s history. Do not exceed 100 words.<br />List all board members for the past 10 years, alive or deceased. Give current home addresses and phone numbers.<br />Estimate the ages of your expected audience members. Give accurate numbers. <br />From a mandated online application: Be certain your manuscript is neat and does not contain typos, white-outs or crossed out words. <br />If you were a member of the review team, how would you rate your proposal?<br />We realize the possible fluctuations in this scenario are infinite: name them.<br />In reference to the above-named indicators, are your competitors greatly influenced by sex? Could they be? Be specific.<br />Accuracy is a vital element of this proposal. To aid in our review, list all errors made with accompanying page numbers.<br />RFPs Suck!<br />Tom Searcy<br />
Selection & Notification<br />And all applicants should get feedback – nobody wants to spend a lot of time responding to an RFP and merely receive a ‘no thank you’ or worse – get no response at all. <br />Acronym Blog,David M Patt, CAE, 9/7/2008<br />
Notification Letter<br />Dear Vendors,<br />Thank you all for participating in this RFP and providing [name of our company] with a detailed RFP. <br />We like to share with you that we had 12 companies participating and 10 companies were looked at from the business unit site. All 10 companies got rated by technical qualifications on a rating scale from 0 to 3 (3 was the highest technically qualified). From there we eliminated 3 companies in round 1 and 2 companies in round 2. At the end we had 5 companies with which we did negotiate best pricing scenarios over 2 rounds. At the end it was very competitive we picked the vendor that knew the situation and came down on pricing to meet our new target price. <br />The process went not always smooth, but we now have a vendor selected. The new vendor is our old vendor.<br />[Our company] thanks you again for participating in this RFP and hopes that we can see you soon for another RFP.<br />Best regards,<br />I.M. Ajerk Buyer, Marketing Functions Classic RFP Form Letter, June 18, 2009 <br />Hunting for Big Sales with Tom Searcy <br />
Exercise<br />Telling Your Story-<br />Writing your own RFP from Scratch!<br />
An RFP is a Process<br />Decision to pursue new software/solution<br />Define the Project/Needs Analysis<br />Budget<br />Timeline<br />Staff Resources (Exec Sponsor, PM and SMEs)<br />Business Requirements<br />Functional Requirements<br />Research Vendors/Conduct RFI<br />Write and Issue RFP<br />Q&A Period<br />Review Proposals<br />Demonstrations<br />Selection and Notification<br />
Lessons Learned<br />Don’t use RFPs for service only/consultants<br />Don’t make the process overly bureaucratic<br />Do your homework first (Needs Analysis and Vendor Research)<br />Do write your own RFP (not canned template)<br />Do include a reasonable list of functional requirements<br />Don’t limit Q&A with vendors<br />Do include a budget and timeline<br />
Reference Materials<br />Blogs<br />DelCor.typepad.com<br />Orgpreneur.com<br />Ada.typepad.com<br />frankfortin.wordpress.com<br />Thoughtclusters.com<br />ASAE Acronym<br />Flyteblog.com<br />Blog.gallucci.net<br />Jeffthomascobb.com<br />Books<br />RFPs Suck! by Tom Searcy<br />Articles<br />To RFP or not to RFP by John Cox, CAE<br />