The request for proposal (RFP) process is critical to making successful business decisions and investing in the future. The RFP process allows IT stakeholders to determine which vendors are best qualified, cost-effective, and able to meet the companies desired end-state. The first step to carefully selecting vendors to participate in the RFP is to gather the appropriate vendor selection criteria. I have outlined key factors to consider before finalizing whom to invite to participate in an RFP.
The discovery process should encompass discussions with key stakeholder(s) to identify specific business goals, establish budget, and ensure the current state is clearly defined. It is important to understand the current state of spend, account management, usage, bandwidth, licenses and subscriptions, contract terms, etc., as it applies to the category under evaluation. To ensure the current state is accurately captured, I’d recommend gathering any required data collection items that may be valuable, such as a copy of the contract with their incumbent, pricing agreements, quotations, usage reports, current invoice(s), and any other important information that may be useful. Additionally, the documentation within the discovery process should help to define challenges, priorities, and encompass the stakeholder(s) wish-list for the desired end state.
Research, Analysis, and Identification:
Once the information has been received, analyzed, and reviewed with all appropriate parties, the next step is to identify suppliers who meet the specified criteria. First, additional due diligence must be performed to understand the suppliers that are currently being leveraged in the marketplace for the specific category at-hand. Based on the category under evaluation, there may be many suppliers that are capable of meeting the client’s needs. To winnow down the pool of suppliers to align with the organization’s needs, I have outlined a few key areas to consider below:
- Key offerings and capabilities
- On-going support (if applicable)
- Experience, certifications, and relevant partnerships
- Year company founded
- Total Revenue
- Global / National presence
- Typical Client Size (e.g. Small vs. Large Corporations)
- Size of the company (Total number of employees)
- Customer reviews and current new updates
In most cases, it is standard to include the incumbent as a participant in the RFP. Nonetheless, launching an RFP gives insight into the current market and supplier offerings as it evolves. This insight can be utilized as negotiation levers if the client wishes or selects the incumbent to continue services for a desired term.
Through the information described above, this will help to exclude specific vendors based on the information gathered in the discovery process and additional knowledge revealed in the due diligence phase. By advancing only those suppliers who meet the defined criteria, this will limit the amount of time spent in future processing and maximize the chance of finding the best match.