Monday Dec 23, 2013

Working Over the Holidays...Thinking About RFPs and Llamas

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

I'm working over the holidays to save up vacation days so that I can hike all 28 segments of the 486 mile Colorado Trail in 2014. And, I ‘m going to pack my gear on the strong backs of a couple llamas. I just happen to have a friend who is llama trekking expert. He says I need to start spending some quality time now with Buddy and Casper so that I learn how to handle them on his ranch rather than risk disaster on the trail. Yes, llamas spit, but I’m told they usually do so only at other llamas and only when annoyed, mistreated, or settling some herd hierarchy issue such as who gets to eat first.

Over the next two weeks, when I'm not spending my evenings with family, friends, and llamas, I'll be learning more about best practices for Request for Proposals (RFPs). As I mentioned in my first two posts on how software selection processes are evolving ("Is Software Selection Now Like Online Dating?" Part 1; Part 2), social media and the internet in general have radically changed how decision makers choose solutions.This includes how and when they choose to employ RFPs.

Should you collaborate with potential respondents when crafting an RFP?

I recall one experience when I was working for the leading manufacturer of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). A large city issued an RFP for installing and operating ATMs in their new airport. Not one company, including my own, submitted a response because the city’s transaction and revenue expectations were absurd and generally showed no understanding of how the ATM business worked. You might say that we, the intended respondents, felt we were being mistreated and chose to spit on their annoying RFP.

The city was treating potential respondents as vendors of a commodity, not potential partners who could each bring unique and valuable experience to the project planning process. After a few, sometimes acrimonious discussions between individual vendors and city project leaders, the city called the potential suppliers into a meeting for input. The result was a second version of the RFP that was reasonable and attracted the desired number and quality of responses. But they could have saved everyone a lot of time, money, and bad blood by getting it right in the first place.

I’ve interviewed several experts already and will be posting the first content on RFP recommendations after the first of the year.

Happy Holidays.

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