Late scorecards and early presentations to build success

After conducting RFPs, it is expected that well established procurement departments will leverage a scoring methodology to measure bidder responses; mechanisms such as scorecards and onsite presentations – typically in that order – are classic next steps. Through this process, RFP responses are compared side-by-side and graded based on predefined criteria. High scoring suppliers are down selected and invited to present on their capabilities prior to entering the negotiations phase. This approach enables a streamlined process by optimizing time spend on presentations by only inviting the most favorable suppliers to participate. Does this process sounds familiar? Does it work? Does it drive innovation? (Response Key: Yes, sometimes, No).

If you read my previous posts (Beyond Business as Usual Part I and Part II) and the ideas that I present make any sense to you, it is very plausible that the process above will not entirely apply to you. Naturally, if you “rethink” the RFP process, then you also must rethink the evaluation process.  (Un)fortunately, requesting creative solutions to your needs instead of template driven answers will deliver incomparable responses, rendering a scorecard almost useless. If you decide to use a scorecard regardless, it is likely that it won’t be conducive to the down selection process as decisive components would be left out of the evaluation.

Innovation driven RFPs – as I like to call them – focus on real value driven responses and call for different down selection methodologies. Instead of developing an overly complex scorecard (which by the way, may be impossible to develop), why not use a checklist instead? This simpler mechanism captures the essentials of the proposal received from the bidder to determine if true value is being perceived. Companies who comply with the list, should be invited to conduct presentations on their value proposition. In other words, their vision of enabling your company to thrive and drive innovation through the services they plan to provide.

You might think this could produce as many presentations as RFP participants, but you would be wrong for two reasons. First, an “innovation driven RFP” will be much more effective in vetting bidders out of the process. Second, after reviewing responses, you will be in a much better position to identify value-driven proposals that resonate with your company’s culture and align with its strategic objectives -a much more powerful filter than a scorecard.

Plus, even if you must conduct presentations with several companies, it wouldn’t hinder the process. It either means that proposals are diverse enough to show there are multiple ways of solving your needs, or that several opportunities at your organization are available. Evaluating diverse approaches to solve the same challenge will provide as richer perspective than a scorecard alone. Presentations should allow bidders to discuss their proposal and defend their value proposition (ROI) to YOUR organization, instead of parading what makes them great. After presentations conclude, good fits should be evident and a more contextualized scorecard can be developed then.

An even more effective approach that puts the bidder evaluation process under a much more assertive light is conducting pre-screening presentations before the RFP is administered. Consider that for some innovation driven RFPs, the sourcing initiatives you will conducting will sometimes lack a proper scope of work expectation, simply because you won’t exactly know what you need and what to look for, cases for which you know there’s a need but you aren’t sure how to solve it, or what would be the right solution (new systems or technologies are a good example).

Supplier presentations before RFPs are issued may be a very effective way to learn what we want for our company and identify elements that we like from bidders early in the process. Then the RFP can be tailored to cater for exactly what we want and a supplier preselection can be achieved by administrating the RFP only to those who seem capable; therefore streamlining the subsequent evaluation process.

Think about your next sourcing need, and before drafting an RFP and inviting bidders to participate think about the strategy overall, and whether it makes sense to let suppliers educate you early in the process. You’ll be prompt in building rapport and aligning culturally with those that are preselected, and will simplify the negotiation process later. If you are a bidder, think about recommending the prospect an early meeting to get to know them, listen to what they want to accomplish through the sourcing process and learn the communication style of the company, this will help you prepare responses aligned with expectations and boost your bid by showcasing the strengths that really matter.

If you want to go beyond business as usual with your RFP administration process, catch Source One's supplier engagement and evaluation experts at the ISM annual conference (ISM2016), where our team of industry thought leaders at the premier sponsor of the exclusive executives sub-conference, Exec IN
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Diego De la Garza

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