I know I’m offending the .002% of people who love the RFP (Request for Proposal) process, but I don’t care. So I’m throwing caution to the wind on this one. The RFP Process is dumb.
The RFP process is a way to get vendors to bid for work, and it made complete sense before the internet was invented.
Now, the RFP process is an example of corporate laziness. It creates an absurd amount of work for everyone involved when a simple set of search terms in Google would suffice. And at the very core of the RFP process, the people responsible for selecting the vendor questions and the people participating on the vendor side to fill out those questions are rarely the people involved in the work. It’s like the Bachelor for vendor bidding – how many of those marriage proposals have lasted?
Here’s how it goes (minus sarcasm):
- A company searches the internet for a set of generic questions.
- Someone at the company modifies the questions and adds a few more (their value-add)
- The company calls all (or a few*) software vendors to fill out an incredibly lengthy RFP and bid their price.
- The vendors spend a ridiculous amount of time filling out and submitting these RFPs.
- Someone at the vendor who would not even be involved in the project in the first place fills out and submits the RFP response.
- A person at the company – who is likely not the decision-maker – reviews the submitted RFPs and makes the first cut.
- The company decides on a few vendors, asks for demos and meetings (and more meetings), and then selects their top choice.
<sarcasm> How could any of this go wrong? </sarcasm>
* In a few cases, a vendor has already been pre-selected, but for compliance or legal reasons, a few vendors have to present to display “fairness” in the process.
Want a better idea?
- Start by identifying your requirements – be clear but be brief
- Identify a small core team who will be responsible for selecting and implementing based on these requirements
- Research specific vendors that can meet your needs
- Invite the vendors to review your requirements and demo (or showcase) against them
- Select your favorite vendor
- Keep (and empower) the team that selected the vendor during the entire engagement. Bonus Points: If you financially incentivize them to be successful in delivery and adoption.
The RFP process is broken – it’s pure posturing on both the vendor and customer sides. Suppose your goal is to purchase software to meet a specific set of criteria, research reputable vendors, and then discuss that criterion with them. Make that the focus of your inquiry, NOT whether a vendor can quickly fill out 100-plus irrelevant questions. You can expedite the software procurement process if you start reimagining a new way of selecting vendors.
With all the time saved on the RFP process – spend time on your Change Management capabilities.
Originally Published March 8, 2018