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RFI Process Essentials


RFI Process Essentials

An RFI process is both an art and a science. In a technology selection process, it often forms the initial stage in a two-step (RFI then RFP) project to find suitable options and then decide upon the most appropriate supplier for the specific need.


We say that it is both an art and a science because there is a process that should be followed, but how the RFI is taken to market and communicated, will be as important as the roadmap to be followed.


In this RFI process guide, we'll delve into the core aspects of the RFI process, and its significance, and offer expert strategies to ensure your RFI efforts are effective and yield optimal results.


Understanding the RFI Process


The RFI process is designed to help organizations gather information about products, services, or potential suppliers before issuing a formal request for proposals (RFP) or making a decision on a preferred vendor. It acts as a preliminary research phase, providing key details to make informed decisions moving forward.


Although it may sound important, at its most fundamental level, it is pretty simple. The RFI just needs to communicate the challenge that the business is facing, and then request that the vendors respond back with how they can help. If we complicate the process, we can create a very detailed and long-winded RFI document and process. If we strip it back, we can make it quick and easy for all parties concerned.


Key Steps in an RFI Process


There are a number of key steps that an RFI process should follow:

  • Identify Goals and Objectives: We need to agree on what challenge the business is looking to solve. This is an important internal step before issuing anything to the vendor community.

  • Research the Market - which vendors do we think might be able to help us with the issue? We need to create a 'longlist' of vendors to approach. If help is needed to define this list, helpful information can be found in our 'longlist' guides

  • Contact Suppliers - make contact with the 'longlist' of potential suppliers and let them know what you are planning to do. Sell the need and give them adequate notice.

  • Compile an RFI Document: Craft an RFI document that talks about the need that you have. You can find an RFI template that we put together to help you at the following link.

  • Distribute the RFI Document: Send the RFI document to the selected vendors and suppliers, providing them with a clear deadline for submission.

  • Evaluate Responses: Review the received responses to assess the vendors' capabilities, offerings, and compatibility with your project's requirements.

  • Shortlist: Based on the responses, create a shortlist of vendors who appear to be a good fit. These vendors will likely be taken forward to the RFP process.


Expert Strategies for a Successful RFI Process


As mentioned above, the RFI process can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. Too many companies make the process longer than it needs to be and this slows down the business in satisfying the need that is driving the RFI.

  • Build Supplier Relationships - Most vendors hate the word RFI - there is very little to be 'won' with an RFI. Even though most will understand that they need to be involved in an RFI in order to be shortlisted, they will not welcome being part of the process. It is therefore essential to ensure that a relationship is built ahead of the RFI issue. Let them know it is coming and why it is so important to have them involved.

  • Keep it Super-Simple - there is no award for confusing the vendors. Keep the process simple and be clear on the issue that you are looking to solve.

  • Just an RFI - remember that we are only looking for ideas and an understanding of our likely shortlist for the next stage (the RFP).

  • Listen - far too many RFIs document the specific expectations of the exercise and restrict the possible responses. This is the wrong approach. Any and all answers are valid in an RFI - we need to listen in order to learn what is available in the market.

  • Set Aggressive Timescales - an RFI process should not take months - it's a quick market assessment and we should direct the team to move quickly. There is no reason why we cannot have the RFI process completed in a few short weeks. Viewpoint Analysis runs what we call a 'Rapid RFI' (or RRFI) and we openly state that we want a decision for the RFP in as little as two weeks.


An Alternative Approach to an RFI


In some cases, there is a need to move quicker than an RFI. This is something that we call a 'Technology Matchmaker Process'. The Technology Matchmaker boils down the process to just two steps - the creation of a vendor briefing document, and the hosting of the 'Matchmaker Presentations'.


It is much quicker than an RFI because it dispenses with the need to run a 'process'.


We have two steps in a Technology Matchmaker:


1) Issue of a Problem Statement - a short document that simply talks about the problem that the business is encountering.

2) Invitation for the vendors to present - the Problem Statement is issued to the vendor community and they have the option to present at a Matchmaker event.


We find the Technology Matchmaker is the quickest form of market assessment.


Conclusion


The RFI process is a vital tool in the procurement and decision-making toolkit. By following the essential steps outlined in this guide and implementing expert strategies, you can maximize the effectiveness of your RFI efforts. The insights gained through the RFI process will pave the way for well-informed decisions, efficient resource allocation, and successful partnerships, ultimately contributing to the overall success of your projects.


Who is Viewpoint Analysis?


Viewpoint Analysis act as a Technology Matchmaker. We help businesses to find and select enterprise technology through our Technology Matchmaker, Rapid RFI, and Rapid RFI processes. More information can be found at www.viewpointanalysis.com

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