I’m always amazed at how much time, energy, money, and effort companies spend on the SAP Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP) processes. It is common to spend months, and in some cases even years, evaluating, analyzing, and preparing for an RFI or RFP.
During the RFI and RFP preparation stage senior management and staff are involved, at times a dozen or more employees may be involved. When you add it all up it can easily cost your company tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or with some large companies even millions in evaluation costs. All of this before a single vendor is contacted.
Let the SAP RFI and RFP Race Begin!
After all the analysis you send out your SAP or ERP Requests for Information (RFI) to an initial list of vendors you would consider doing business with. You include details of your initial scope and the key information about the size and complexity of your project in your SAP Request for Proposal (RFP) (see SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria & Factors 2, Section #10).
After all this time and effort you get the RFI results and narrow the evaluation field to a few finalists. You schedule the proposals and the vendors arrive.
The SAP RFP show is on – Welcome to the Three Ring Circus!
SAP Partners bring in a small army of sales people, senior level management, and maybe one or two key consultants. They start showing lots of slides while their staff “works” the room. Before vendors ever come to the presentation they have strategy meetings and discussions about how to handle various issues and how to set the stage. This is their dog and pony show. A room full of sales people and some senior level employees want to convince you to pick them!
This is their job, this is what they are paid for, this is what they do.
How much of this really matters? At the end of the day are any of them going to actually deliver the business solutions? After all the smoke is cleared and the mirrors are put away how many of the people at the RFP will deliver your SAP or ERP project?
A Simple Fix to the SAP RFI or RFP Processes Increasing SAP Project Success
Based on the number of companies who are dissatisfied with their ERP investments it is clear that the SAP RFI and RFP processes are broken. If they weren’t broken there wouldn’t be nearly as many frustrated customers. After all, it is the RFI and RFP processes that determine the composition of your project team, the consulting project team, the tools and resources that are used for delivery, etc. In other words that early foundational work of picking the right vendor, their consultants, and their project tools is a critical key to your chances for project success.
To be successful your whole focus should be on aggressively addressing the ability of vendors to use SAP functionality for business benefit. Who really cares how great the vendor’s sales staff thinks they are? That’s what those sales people get paid for. Ask yourself, during the course of your SAP software project who is going to ensure that your business marketplace competitive pressures are addressed with the solutions they provide? Will any of those grinning sales people or those senior executives work on the delivery of the solution they are trying to sell you?
A focus on the vendor delivery team, rather than the sales team, should be non-negotiable
Make a real difference in your SAP RFP by focusing on the consultants who will be responsible to deliver project success, for example your SAP RFI might require the SAP partners or vendors to indicate:
- Average consultant application experience (BOTH in years and numbers of full lifecycle projects)
- Average consultant business experience before or during SAP projects
- What is the contact information for the vendor’s last 3 SAP projects (sequentially, not “reference clients”) that were completed?
For the SAP RFP it is critical to ensure you get detailed information on the actual consultants the vendor is proposing. Another key requirement has got to be your ability to interview every single consultant the vendor is proposing. You might even require that the vendor include ONLY customer references from the consultants who are being proposed for your project. Who cares what the sales guys say — the consultants and project manager will be responsible for delivering the results. After all, as the research indicates, the level of experience and types of skills needed for excellence can not be underestimated (see Expert SAP Consulting to Reduce SAP TCO and Improve SAP ROI).
A focus on the vendor delivery team, rather than the sales team, should be non-negotiable and any vendor who fails to comply must be automatically disqualified. Some of the key requirements of your RFP might include:
- Consultant special business solutions:
- What special processing solutions, reports, process changes, automation, or other solutions have they created?
- What was the difference with the standard SAP solution and their alternative?
- How or why did they choose any custom solution rather than standard functionality?
- What business competitive pressures were addressed by these solutions? (Vendor / Supply management, Customer focus, Competitors, New products / services, i.e. operations, innovation, or business growth).
- What specific business need was addressed and how was this solution innovative?
- What have the last 3 or 4 clients said about this consultant?
- Who can you contact STILL AT THOSE CLIENTS (not third parties) who have enough knowledge to speak about that consultant’s skill?
- What customers or projects are represented by the consultants the vendor will propose (and note that these WILL be checked against the actual consultants proposed).
There are so many “con”sultants with fake, misleading, or insufficient backgrounds or experience it is no wonder customers are often frustrated by the lack of results from their SAP software projects (see Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant ).
A Revolutionary SAP RFP Idea
Perform a “game changer” in your SAP RFP processes. Mandate that the consultants who will deliver the project must be the ones who deliver the RFP presentation. ALL OF THE PRESENTATION! What a great way to find out the real skill level of the consultants who will actually deliver your solution. By using this method this is your opportunity to evaluate the SAP vendor’s delivery team skill level. After all consultants with several successful SAP implementations will have developed several key skills that you will be able to directly evaluate during the RFP presentation:
- clear oral and written communications,
- solution assessments,
- problem resolutions,
- business process design,
- translation of SAP / ERP speak to business language,
- knowledge transfer,
- and organizational change.
Their ability to deliver the RFP demonstrates whether or not they possess sufficient experience, how well they handle pressure, and whether or not they can actually solve business problems you might question them about.
If the consultants do not have enough experience to translate techno-speak into plain, understandable business language then how much meaningful experience do they really have? If they can’t deliver the RFP how will they lead requirements gathering sessions and ensure business requirements are captured and addressed? If they can’t answer your business problem questions in ways that you can understand how much experience do they really have? For more details on critical skills for good SAP consultants please see the post entitled “Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2“.
If you need help with a business focused SAP RFP, or with the ways to evaluate and screen consultants consider hiring an outside expert for this. Not just an RFP “expert” who will only help to use the traditional “dog and pony show.” But an expert who can help to guide you through the important evaluation tasks.
We offer this service at R3Now or you might look for others who specialize in this type of thing like Michael Doane (www.michaeldoane.com), Jon Reed (www.jonerp.com/), or for SAP HR or HCM related functions you might consider Jarret Pazahanick (www.platinumHCM.com). We are more than happy to partner with some of these and other industry experts to help ensure you get the best possible results.
Contact us today!