Writing a meaningful and thorough request for proposal (RFP) can be the start to a healthy vendor relationship. But first things first, you should assess if you even need one.
Hello from Businessolver. Ray O'Donnell here. Welcome to the first installment in our series, Conquering RFP Writer's Block. In each of the next installments, we're going walk through some of the important points we touch on in our white paper, The Art of Writing an RFP, which is available online here for download.
The focus of our white paper and this video series, is benefits administration technology and service. Although, many of the principles that we're going to share are applicable across HR technology needs in general.
To RFP or not to RFP - that is the question.
Today we're gonna start, like all good stories do, at the beginning. And first, a reminder that you are not alone in this process.
Whenever you decide to embark on an RFP journey and begin a search for a new technology or service provider, it's important to start with the question, "is an RFP even necessary?" You'll see a number of different reasons here behind me that could point to a yes or a no. We could talk about the pros and cons for hours. But I want to point out the yes column in particular. As these reasons tend to be more strategic and drive towards a specific outcome or a specific solution to a problem. What I mean by that is, if you have a corporate edict or a change in leadership that is driving change, that is an obvious reason to start putting together an RFP.
What corporate edict and changes in leadership are driving at is an overall strategic big picture solution that is scaleable for your organization. The last one on the "yes" list points to an RFP because you're in some form of pain and your current solution isn't giving you what you need to succeed.
When you say, "yes to the RFP" be prepared to be strategic.
When you decide to move forward with an RFP, it's important to remember that what you're going to embark on is that big picture strategic initiative. And so, if we start to think about the reasons that it might not make sense to complete an RFP, you'll see that they tend to be a little bit more narrow and based on an "input" and "output" model.
The No column - you don't need an RFP.
There is no great reason to go out for an RFP simply to do a price check on the market. It's also not a great idea to decide to do an RFP when you don't have buy-in from within your organization. Buy-in is most important because RFPs are a lot of work. They take a lot of time and resources from anybody who responds to them. But on your side, in order to truly get the outcome you want, you have to define what problems you are trying to solve for. In fact, there is research that suggests that up to 70 percent of RFPs that are issued don't require the respondent to give any indication of how the future state will be better for the end user. This is a major problem and can end up being a huge frustration for both sides.
Will this make my organization better?
If we drill into that number, that means that 70 percent of RFPs have no real thought about how specifically the partnership is going to create a better experience for the member or for the employee. Which is why corporate buy-in is hugely important for the success of an RFP. Everyone needs to be on the same page in terms of goals, and problems that need to be solved.
You aren't the first person to write an RFP - there are a lot of resources out there!
You're not the first to need an RFP or to write one! Again, I would point you to The Art of Writing an RFP, available on our website. It's a great resource with many questions and tools that you can leverage to start writing your very own RFP. There's also consultants, advisors, and other partners that can help you once you've answered the two most important questions: what is the specific outcome you want to achieve and how will you go about doing it?
Don't worry, you don't need to know everything.
The other thing I want to bring to your attention is that you're not expected to know everything in this process. You've answered some hard questions already. You've already established that yes, we have to go down this road. We need to do it. Bring in resources, bring in the people that are going to be critical in making this decision because the odds are that you're only going to embark on this type of search every three to five years. And in fact, that may be too many times!
We continue to hear from partners who say, "if I'm constructing and issuing and RFP every three years, my other work isn't going to get done. I can't be strategic and move my business forward with that kind of timeline." Your decision to issue an RFP is a big one. Be sure and pull everybody into this process that's necessary to make it successful.
Just statistically speaking, the average buying process has seven different people involved and the diversity in that process continues to go. You have more and more millennials that are getting into that decision making process so just be thoughtful and know that you're not expected, nor should you, go about this process alone.
Don't worry, it's not too late.
The last thing I want to share, is that maybe you're behind where you want to be. Maybe you're not exactly as far along in the timeline as you'd hoped. But I promise, you're not the first one to arrive late, nor will you be the last. We're going to dive into this in more detail in a future installment. But what I'll share with you today is, don't let the fact that you're behind put you in the "no" column.
Yes, you need to be thoughtful of the timeline. Not having an adequate one is certainly a reason to delay an RFP. But try and be really thoughtful about what time you do have and then think about what that timeline looks like.
Well, that's all we have time for today. Please tune into our next installment where we're going to talk about how you introduce your organization in an RFP. In the meantime, please share this video with your colleagues, consultants or any other stakeholders who are going to be involved in this process with you. It's good to have that grounding and be on the same page as to what goals you want to accomplish with this process. Also, remember to download our white paper, The Art of Writing an RFP below.
Ready for part 2? Check out the second video in our series, Introducing your Organization.