Daily Archives: August 18, 2008

(e-Sourcing, e-Procurement, and e-Supply Chain) RFP Help Here!

Here’s irony for you: as a Purchasing and Procurement professional, some of the most complex products and services you will source are the very tools that you have to acquire in order to be successful. That’s right, I’m talking about e-Sourcing tools and e-Procurement systems.

If you’re a regular reader of Sourcing Innovation, you know that I don’t pull my punches when it comes to reviewing e-Sourcing and e-Procurement tools. I’ve seen it all, and I can assure you that there are very real differences between them — differences that can and will have a profound impact on your success.

I can help you find the tools and solutions that are right for your company and your needs.

Unlike industry analysts, who are paid by the very vendors they “review,” I do not have any skin in the game with regard to a particular approach or a particular vendor. And, unlike armchair “experts” who opine on technology without having any technology background, I am a technologist by training (a PhD computer scientist, in fact) who cannot be fooled by a pretty user interface or a piece of Marketing drivel. When I get a vendor brief, I insist on looking inside the cookie jar. I’m not satisfied just admiring the glaze on the outside. If the vendor won’t open the jar, I assume the worst, and I’m usually right. (And they don’t get a nice blog entry on Sourcing Innovation either!)

There are numerous mistakes that are easy to make in the RFI/RFP process. You should not be embarrassed if you have made some of them, because both vendors and analysts are aggressively pushing strategies that ultimately benefit them, not you. It’s very hard not to fall into the traps they’ve set for you.

For example:

  • Never, ever, use an RFI or RFP “template” from a vendor. At best, this is just a way for the vendor to sell you the exhaustive, but often mostly useless, set of “features” they happen to have. At worse, it is a way for the vendor to sow “poison pills” that other vendors will have difficulty answering, so that the scoring algorithm on the RFx will cause them to appear better than the competition, whether or not this is true.
  • Never use an analyst’s report to generate a list of “features” that the analyst believes a product should have. The analyst doesn’t know anything about you or your business, and typically knows very little about the products, either (other than what he or she has been told by the vendors who are paying him or her or his or her company).
  • Never use vendor marketing materials to decide on the “key features” that you need. Vendors often compete with each other on irrelevant points that have no bearing on the functionality that your business requires, and analysts tend to repeat these irrelevancies until they achieve a life of their own.
  • Never assume that a product is “stable” or “bullet proof” just because it’s been out there for years. I’ve seen mature RFP software utterly fail, when RFP software (after years and years of development!) ought to be a slam dunk. I’ve seen “enterprise” e-procurement systems where the price actually charged by the vendor does not match the catalog price (you’d think they could at least get that right!). By the way, neither of these examples involve small vendors.
  • If a claim seems outrageous, it almost always is. For example, no static report can replace an opportunity assessment from a trained professional. Don’t imagine that you can base a procurement strategy on the output of an automated tool.

Fortunately for you, I’m in a unique position to help. With my dual background in technology and sourcing/procurement, I can work with you to:

  • understand what you need and do a proper Needs Assessment
  • put together an RFP that outlines the functionality you need, not an exhaustive list of useless features. Vendors want you to focus on irrelevancies; you need to focus on core value.
  • review the RFP responses and help you identify the questions you need to ask, like I did generically last year in my X-emplification and X-asperation series
  • review a potential contract in order to identify:
    • unnecessary modules
    • missing functionality
    • missing cost definitions (so you don’t get burned later on)
    • and other potential weaknesses

So if you need help with that needs assessment, RFP, or contract, e-mail me at any time at thedoctor <at> sourcinginnovation <dot> com. No job is too big or too small as I know that you don’t put the cart before the horse.

P.S. Yes, as per the categorization, this is an advertisement for the doctor‘s services. I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to state the obvious, especially since I classified it as such, but it appears I have to.