RFPs - do you need help looking for a new interconnect voice management platform?

So, you have finally come to the conclusion that you need to replace your Least Cost Routing Solution, or your Interconnect Voice Management Solution, or your Interconnect Rate Management System, or your LCR file generator, or whatever you want to call it.  You’ve decided it’s time to join the rest of the industry and upgrade this portion of your OSS & BSS solution set. So, you start with requirements, and you realize that you need to capture what is needed, and what is wanted by the teams that will be using the tool set.  

One of the default methods that all medium to large organizations employ to capture and communicate these wants and needs, is the RFP - the Request for Proposal.  It is a document that reflects a company’s wants, needs, and sometimes wishes for capabilities they are seeking in a solution. In 2016, does it really make sense to use an RFP to select a vendor for the interconnect voice management platform? Does having an RFP help or hurt?  Is it the wrong tool for the job?  

Well, unfortunately, that’s not a yes or no question. See, RFPs provide a “forcing function” for companies to evaluate their wants and needs. They can help facilitate discussions across multiple teams/groups in the carrier organization because, as we all know, the LCR engine, or the interconnect voice management solution touches many departments, many people, and, as such, serves many masters. We often liken it to an ERP tool specifically for interconnect voice management. But, therein lies the problem. RFPs do facilitate great discussions and usually result in the production of a document capturing every requirement of a carrier’s operations, finance, sales and management. That in itself is the problem, as it captures everyone’s requirements, and each group has their own perspective, and applies their own priorities on capabilities, user experience, and critical must-have requirements.  

The result is usually a very large unwieldy collection of wants and needs that make it difficult for vendors to respond in a thoughtful way that informs the carrier about what is available today.  Further, the RFP process creates a fictional “yes or no” decision amongst the solution providers. Do they participate? Do they respond? Can they respond accurately without unintentionally excluding themselves from consideration?  It’s this realization that gets to the real core of the issue that RFPs present. RFPs are a great asset for companies to utilize to capture all the requirements. BUT, they are an ineffective tool to use to evaluate vendors, their solutions, and their proposals. We believe that the optimum approach is to use the RFP internally to generate requirements, engage with a few vendors (2 or 3), and evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. That leads to a higher probability of making the right decision as opposed to just using a quantitative approach based on responses received in a wish-list based RFP document.   

What do you think?  How much value do you place on RFPs?

Andrea Rona