We won’t cover a detailed breakdown of RFP sections or RFP strategies but we will hit on some of the high points. These high points together with a few ways to neutralize some of the vendor sales strategies can help to ensure you are getting the very best vendor or resources for the job.
This stage is probably the most intense for any company considering a technology project. There is a lot of preparation to get a solid RFP that can set the stage for breakthrough results and solid payback for your technology investment.
The key foundational activities for a good RFP include a solid business case, a clear statement of scope and then the development of the RFP itself. Some guidance can be found here in this article on and ERP and SAP business case for ROI, business benefit, and success.
What Type of IT Vendor, System Integrator, or Implementation Model
One other thing to consider during the RFP process is what type of vendor or implementation model you are looking for in your proposal. There are a number of vendor options and each has their strengths and weaknesses but a review of the pros and cons of each is for another day.
You may wish to employ a well established system integrator; a “boutique” consulting firm; or completely manage the project with your own selected staff of contractors; or you may want to consider a hybrid approach. If you are considering the contractor route, of staffing a project yourself, you might wish to review the screening methods to find the right consultant Part 1 and Part 2.
You will also need to determine your project implementation model. Will you do a pure time and materials approach, or fixed fee, or time and materials with penalties for under-delivery (over budget, over time) and rewards for over delivery (under budget, early), or time and materials with cost controls, or a blend of some of the approaches.
You may wish to include the characteristics of the experience of the consultants you want in your RFP as well. For example you might insist that you want the team leads to all have small and mid-sized business (SMB) implementation experience and they should have done production support work. Why are those important? In my experience the SMB consultants have the deepest module and troubleshooting experience. Consultants with production support experience understand ahead of time some of the problems a company will face after go live and can address it during the implementation portion of the project. This site has several articles related to the important considerations around go-lives. At the end of this post I’ve included a list of articles from my experience doing production support about the areas I have seen over the years that cause the most pain after you go live.
Since consultants will be guiding your business, dealing with sensitive company information, and helping to set a new direction and focus, it is important that you are getting the consultants you are paying for and not the fakes, frauds, or con artists that are out there.
Dealing with System Integration Vendor Proposal Methods
Bigger system integrators tend to rely on the “wow” factor of fancy customer lists, huge size and scope, and other factors which may not always translate into a better solution for your business. In the end, you have to ask yourself, what really matters to you as a company? Is it flashy presentations that show off how great the vendor is, or is it the ability to deliver real results for your business with the people they bring to the table? Sometimes it will be the large vendors or system integrators, but sometimes it won’t be. The real question then is how do you make sure you are getting what you pay for whether it is one of the “Big X” vendors, a smaller boutique firm, or even staffing and running your own project?
Here are some steps you can take to help neutralize some of the sales pitches and focus on what really matters–, which vendor can really deliver the best results?
- Determine in advance a list of business requirements you want the technology spend to address. These should become the basis for your whole project, the guiding reason for the technology spend. Understanding the business goals which are behind any of your company KPIs is important to help focus technology investment.
- Develop a rational scoring protocol that addresses how well a vendor adhered to your RFP, scored section by section, and weighted to what is important for your company.
- Set a slide presentation limitation. Say, no more than 50 total slides for the actual presentation and no more than another 50 slides for an Appendix of supporting information. If a vendor is unable to capture the important items to your company and its results (rather than touting how great they are) in 50 slides they may not be the best fit.
- In your RFP it should be spelled out explicitly that customer qualifications and customer references can ONLY come from the specific resumes of the consultants being proposed for the project. Ignore all the “gee whiz aren’t we special” because we have so many great customers our company has worked with. If the customer list doesn’t represent the skills and talent they are proposing for your project, why do you care who else they have done business with? You may also wish to note that any deviation from this will be scored harshly after all, who really cares if they have worked with every one of your competitors if none of those consultants will be working on your project?
- During the Vendor presentation require an actual demo of some of the system functionality. This will help to ensure that they vendor is bringing actual knowledgeable consultants to the proposal because they will have to take the time with some of their internal resources to be able to set the demo up and to have some of their knowledgeable consultants on site to show you the system functionality and to answer questions.
- Ensure that the vendor provides the implementation tools and samples of each of the templates and resources they use for the project. Offer to sign an NDA to eliminate any of their arguments about “proprietary” information.
- Include a provision in the RFP that unverified or unverifiable claims of business benefit will be scored harshly. You may wish to note in the RFP that if a statistic or a reference to benefit is noted anywhere in the vendor’s presentation, whether on paper or during any oral presentation that it must be supported by an authoritative or verifiable source otherwise including it will be scored against them. Unfortunately it is a routine practice for vendors to “promote” questionable or unverifiable “results” statistics and throw numbers around to try to persuade you. The practice is fine so long as it is legitimate. If a vendor claims they helped company “X” gain “Y” benefit then insist that you need a verifiable source for BOTH the benefit and for how the baseline for the benefit was established and then how the change was measured. You may even wish to include such a provision in your RFP to the vendor so they know up front what your expectations are for their “claims of superiority.”
- Make it a requirement that the system integrator or staffing firm provide an affidavit attesting to verification of consultant skills and background. A lot of attorneys can draft a sound verification affidavit covering the due diligence used for screening project resources. If you are a public company your executives have to sign off on financial statements under penalty of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation (in the U.S.) so you might as well have your implementation vendors do the same. If they won’t do solid background checks or verifications why do you want them at your company?
- Have an explicit contract provision that your implementation vendor may only provide contract resources from the vendor’s direct staffing partners. That contract agreement should spell out that those staffing partners may not use additional staffing partners more distant. The reason is that as you move further away from the immediate implementation vendor, and as each partner takes their “cut” of the rate, you end up with more and more fakes. After you begin to move further away from your prime vendor, everyone’s “cut” begins to reduce the final rate to much less than a normal market rate to the end contractor and any contractor with real experience will only go so far in rate concessions even in a down economy. As a result you only attract fakes, cons, and liars.
- Include a provision in the RFP that asks the vendor to describe their process for handling less than ideal or less than optimal consulting resources. Be sure that provision includes specific language noting that you would like to know their approach and policies on credits as well. In this provision of the RFP make it explicit that this section will be scored heavily so that it may affect the overall decision process if the policy is not adequate. You may even wish to go so far as to note that even if the vendor scores well they could be disqualified for not having a reasonable policy here.
The idea with this and all of the other tactics and techniques you intend to use is to set a clear expectation about the quality of the resources the vendor provides and the quality of the project you expect. By doing things like this from the beginning and carrying them out throughout the early stages of the project you will set the stage for success and have the greatest opportunity to achieve breakthrough results with your technology investment.
For obvious reasons there is a heavy emphasis on getting the right resources. After all, the people delivering the project and influencing or affecting the direction of your business are more important than the vendor behind them (so long as that vendor is reputable).
After developing your RFP the next stage is to determine the list of vendors you wish to submit to. And you may even wish to throw in a couple of “wild cards” to the normal vendor selection just to get a different perspective from another type of vendor on how they would do your project. The more knowledge you gain early in the process the more sophisticated of a client you will become. The more sophisticated you are as a technology customer the better your results will be.
For those breakthrough results ask yourself what is important to you as a business, and what you believe you need to achieve that. Be sure to build those expectations into your RFP somewhere and score them accordingly. In the end what really matters in all of this is are you getting what you expect?
Some of the Biggest Production Support Problems with your SAP Project to Avoid:
Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 1
(introduction, security and authorizations)
Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 2
(master data, data transformation methods)
Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 3
(process issues, blueprinting, testing, and change management)
Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 4
(custom development, costs and consequences of inexperienced developers)
Four Part Series:
Achieve Breakthrough ERP, SAP, or IT Project Success: 1 of 4
Breakthrough Project Success: 2 of 4, IT Vendor Proposal RFP
Breakthrough Project Success: 3 of 4, Vendor Selection and Contracts
Breakthrough Project Success: Part 4 of 4, Last Low Risk Chance for Results
Contact me today through our site contact form ( http://www.r3now.com/contact ), phone, or e-mail.
- Why should an RFP include contractor/vendor support and troublshooting provisions