When you are looking to buy enterprise software, the traditional route to purchase is through an RPF process. So, if you are about to buy software and are looking to issue a Software RFP, here are 8 tips that will ensure that you get the very best responses and get an RFP response from all of your preferred bidders.
1. Explain why you are issuing the RFP
The very first thing to do is to explain why you are looking to buy a new solution and why you are issuing an RFP. It's critical that you sell to the audience at this point. Why should the vendors choose to spend their time and money to respond to your RFP. What's in it for them? A software RFP is almost always difficult and therefore some vendors will simply not respond. Explaining why you are doing it and why they should care is key.
2. Make it simple
It may look good to your management team, but a thick document made up of various attachments is NOT what the vendor will want to see. In some cases, it will lead to an immediate decision to disqualify themselves from your process. Try to make the document simple. Simple to read. Simple to understand. Simple to complete. The easier it is, the less time and money will need to be invested by the various vendors.
3. Issue the RFP to a few rather than to many
The RFP should be issued to your shortlist of vendors. Before that, you can do an extensive market assessment and speak to lots of different software providers. At the RFP stage, you are looking to issue to a handful of different companies. The larger the vendor pool, the more complicated it is to run the process and the longer it will take. Ahead of the RFP, try something like the Viewpoint Analysis Project Matchmaker approach - it will narrow down the options very quickly.
(p.s. if you are looking to issue an RFI ahead of your RFP - this article will be helpful to read - Scrap the RFI - it's time for a rethink (viewpointanalysis.com)
4. Let the vendors know that it's coming
This is a crucial one and is often missed by the procuring teams. Always give your RFP recipients plenty of notice that the RFP is to be issued. If they know it is coming, they can assign and hold resources to respond to your software requirement. It also ensures that they have no excuses to qualify out because they do not have the time to invest in the process. As a bare minimum - make sure they know they are going to get an RFP! We hear vendors complain that they have never spoken to a customer before getting a hefty RFP...that's not good.
5. Pose a problem statement rather than asking for a specific solution
This might sound unusual - but we always suggest posing a problem statement and asking for the vendor to respond with how they suggest they can tackle your problem. Who will know best? It's likely the vendor has encountered your issue many times before and knows how to handle the problem better than you and your team. It also gets the vendor's team to be on their toes and think about the problem - not just respond to lots of questions.
6. Streamline the process
A software RFP can take months - indeed if there is an RFI ahead of the RFP, it can be many months. We suggest you look at how you can streamline the process. We have a service called the Rapid RFP and this is all about speed and efficiency. We run RFPs on behalf of our customers and we use standard templates - we don't reinvent the wheel. Also, we don't have individual sessions with each vendor (we do this at the Project Matchmaker phase), but rather we bring all the vendors on the calls that we have. The more you can cut out duplication, the quicker the process will run and the sooner you will have your preferred option.
7. Make the scoring clear
Make the scoring very clear for your team and your vendors. Both need to understand how a decision will be made. It ensures that you will bring the internal team with you - and that you make the right decision in the end. Take bias and opinion out of the equation.
8. Try different formats
The traditional approach is to issue lots of Word and Excel documents, but why not mix things up. Why spend a long time writing when you can easily record a video explaining the issue? Different formats can save you and your team a great deal of time and energy and make things easier for the vendors.
An RFP is never welcomed - either by the procuring team or the vendor community. Keep it simple. Keep it easy to complete. Communicate well and streamline where you can. Follow these tips and you will make a success of it and gain lots of constructive responses.
If you a dreading the idea of issuing your software RFP, get in contact with us and we'll front the process for you with our Rapid RFP or Meet My Need services - both designed to drive a quick vendor decision so that you can get on and implement your chosen software.