It’s faster than the product you had before, it’s more efficient and simpler to manage but what did it do for your companies strategy? Features, Speed, Efficiency and Simplicity are easy to quantify, I think that’s maybe why we focus on them so much and they do provide incremental benefits. To IT teams these benefits may seem substantial but when measured in the context of the business impact that technology could have enabled just how significant are they and are we too focused on these somewhat isolated benefits rather then the broader business benefits?
I find RFP’s are one really interesting indicator of the maturity of IT within an organisation. I get to see a lot of these as they arrive, and I can see how much work has been done by the issuer to make sure they’ve covered every dial, widget and sprocket of the product to ensure it meets their requirements.
Most often the responses requested are about specific features or capabilities and some of these get so specific that you can tell that not only has the RFP limited the possibility for new ideas and thinking, it’s actually been written to eliminate all products except the one that the IT team have already decided that they want to buy.
The consequence of this is that as long as every vendor can tick the boxes as being compliant in the solution they are proposing then it enables the purchaser to just drive for the best price, so everyone involved in creating the RFP feels like they’ve done a great job. But as far as I’m concerned this very often leads to the situation where you bought the best product for the best price and may well have ended up with something that simply isn’t the best solution.
The irony is that many times I see in these RFP’s questions like, what’s your roadmap for the next 3 years, or what’s your strategy for the next 3 years? Fair questions, albeit not questions that any vendor is going to answer as these responses will be subject to an NDA and an RFP is public, meaning these responses can be viewed by any that are part of the RFP process.
Rarely have I ever seen a company state in their RFP what their 3 year roadmap is or their 3 year strategy for how IT will evolve to deliver new value to their business. If you state this in the RFP then you’re likely to encourage a supplier to suggest new ideas or ways of doing things that might get you there, they may even suggest ways that you could go even further than you’d imagined.
The internal people have often done what they were asked to do but have constrained themselves by their own thinking and by not considering new approaches or giving the company responding the actual business objectives. The responder now has to work within these imposed limits of knowledge and experience. Before anyone get’s defensive here, I’m simply stating that these IT teams work for one company whereas the companies responding work with many companies across many different industries which brings with it additional experience and perspective.
Companies continue to do what has worked for them in the past and aren’t allowing the responders, with their often broader ideas and insights to have any influence over their thinking. This makes no sense and unless companies seriously rethink about how they develop their RFP’s then the constraints placed on the responder will likely manifest as serious constraints to their business and the real value that IT can deliver to support their companies future strategy.
It’s time for companies to seriously rethink the RFP process, to remove the constraints and encourage innovative responses
As always comments are welcomed