The Problem With The RFP

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Okay, can we all just finally admit that the entire RFP process...in a word...sucks!

It’s an antiquated artifact from the last century that needs to be retired. We just completed an RFP for a PTT carrier and it became pretty clear to us that not only was this not an ideal method of selecting a vendor, but it might just be the worst way to pick a vendor. It’s right up there with picking a vendor because Uncle Joe recommended them.

Why are RFPs so bad?   

Why do companies still employ them?   

Well, the answers to each question are both simple and complex. RFPs are so bad because they attempt to codify in an aggregated fashion how vendors’ solutions work. That’s just not the way it works in the real world. If software solution providers are continually investing in new design methods (Agile, Rapid Prototyping, etc.), why are companies still buying in an anachronistic method? Why wouldn’t they be looking at the way they evaluate solutions and choose vendors? That question goes to the heart of larger organizations...momentum.  Momentum is both good and bad. It impedes a company’s ability to do things differently. People become adherents to the process and end up following it, even if it no longer benefits the company or optimizes the selection of the right vendor to address the company’s needs.

There is of course a better way. A much better way in fact.

And it’s pretty simple, when you think about it:

  1. The company should capture their top 5 needs. These are the 5 things that must be fixed by the new solution
  2. The company should send the request to no more than 5 vendors (ideally three, but 5 if it is a major investment)
  3. The company should require the vendor to provide references of at least 5 companies of similar size, need, and complexity

That’s it.  

The requirements list doesn’t need to contain things like, “The solution must include User Access Control Lists”, or ”The solution must explain how its database backup processes work”. That’s completely unnecessary and does not help get a clearer picture of the vendor’s ability to meet the company’s needs. And in almost every RFP there are dozens of requirements like that. RFPs are ridiculous documents. They actually hinder a company’s ability to get the right solution.

So, we all know RFPs suck. We all  know that they rarely, if ever, end up making sure the company gets the right vendor. Everyone involved should STOP using them. They are a wasteful and anachronistic (I really like that word) way of doing things.  

Focus on needs.  

Focus on reference customers.   

That’s it.  

STOP THE RFP MADNESS...CAUSE THEY REALLY DO SUCK