The RFP process can thrust clients and software vendors into a place where nerves get frazzled, time runs short, and tension and worry can boil over.
When a Southern California-based retirement association approached us, their concerns were heightened by the fact that they had never replaced their line of business pension administration system before. They had seen demos, and really did not have good ways of distinguishing one from the next, other than how they looked.
“All software vendors claim that their systems are user-friendly for non-technical staff, and that they’re easy to work with. We needed to see to what extent this was true before getting in the water.”
Entering into the project, our initial goals were to:
Software firms have needs too, especially when the RFP process is unwieldy and potentially costly. Many vendors have told us that they’ve begun passing on RFPs—even the ones they knew they were a potential fit—simply because the time constraints were too tight, or the up-front resources just weren’t available. This has a negative effect on final results, in that organizations aren’t truly getting to choose from the best.
We knew that anything we created needed to support vendors as well, which drove a few more project goals:
We began by leading the RFP and evaluation process, then helped our client identify two finalists. Next came a “trial” phase: a 45-day competitive process during which the two firms would develop a Proof of Concept (PoC) using our client’s business rules and real data.
Even though two software vendors would have to commit to a more competitive environment, representatives from both firms shared that they were happy to prove themselves “on the ground.”
To avoid any delays to the overall project, the trial phase also incorporated the contract negotiation, and a best and final offer process as well, which we included in the evaluation criteria.
The client was impressed with both vendors—from their extensive prototypes, to their ability to produce problem cases that replicated real-world conditions.