If you’re a marketing professional, chances are you just finished polishing off your marketing plan for 2009… but is it really finished? Did you remember blogger relations? More importantly, did you remember to budget for blog sponsorships and thought leadership?
It’s wise to become acquainted with your friendly neighborhood blogger, because your market is going to the blogs. And there’s one blogger in particular you need to get to know — the doctor. When a sourcing professional wants to track trends, she goes to the indices; if she wants a high level overview and some self-evident observations, she goes to the trade pubs; but if she wants some hard-hitting advice on how to combat price increases and rake in savings, she goes to one blog in particular — Sourcing Innovation. No other publication gives you the in-depth analysis and insight on vendor solutions that you will get from the doctor or his friends the Sourcing Maniacs. Ask any one of the thousands (upon thousands) of readers who visit Sourcing Innovation on a regular basis, or choose a few random posts from the dozens and dozens that appear in the Sourcing Innovation vendor post index.
If it’s been six months since your solution’s last check-up, be sure to schedule some time to check in with the doctor in the near future. If you’ve never had a check-up, now would be a great time for that first physical. There’s no better measure of your solution’s health than a private, in-depth review by the doctor; and no advertisement or white paper you publish will be as effective as a content-filled post on Sourcing Innovation. Since the doctor will never publish a solution analysis without an in-depth review, procurement professionals come to Sourcing Innovation first when they want the facts. That’s because unlike other technically-naive bloggers and analysts who believe that they can offer an informed decision based on a press release or a PowerPoint deck, the doctor always examines the patient thoroughly, and always prepares a deeply credible report.
So send an e-mail to thedoctor <at> sourcinginnovation <dot> com to schedule your appointment today! Your corporate health may depend on it.
The SSON (Shared Services and Outsourcing Network) recently published an article by Kit Burden of DLA Piper, a legal services and business insights firm that represents emerging growth and high tech companies, on his Top Ten Tips for Drafting an RFP that are worth sharing, especially since some of them echo the tips this blog has given you in the past. The tips are:
- Don’t Issue The RFP To Too Many Suppliers
Otherwise, it will become unmanageable and drain your internal resources. Do your homework before issuing the RFP and only issue it to suppliers who are likely to be able to meet your requirements at an acceptable price level. If too many providers fall into this category, shortlist the providers with the most experience in your vertical and the most stability. Generally, the RFP should only be issued to three to six providers, unless you are in the public sector and are required to open it up to anyone who wants to submit a proposal.
- Ask Questions That Allow for Genuine Differentiation
As I’ve said again and again, don’t use a vendor “check-the-box” RFP template. Not only are they designed to make the vendor look good, but they don’t ask open-ended questions that will allow the respondents to genuinely differentiate themselves from their competition. Don’t ask “do you have invoice management”, instead ask “how does your application support our invoice processing function, which works as follows”.
- Ensure the References and Case Studies are From Directly Comparable Projects or Customers
If you’re in high-tech and the vendor only provides you with CPG client references, you’re not going to know the breadth of the provider’s capabilities and expertise in your vertical. You should do your homework and also contact the clients in your vertical that they don’t give as references. (A Google search on a few news sites and a quick review of their press releases should provide you with some good candidates quickly.)
- Be Crystal Clear on Your Objectives
Is your primary goal cost reduction, service improvement, support flexibility, etc? And are you looking for a product or a service? Everyone wants to save money, but the vendors need to know how you expect to achieve that goal, and what the provider’s role is to be.
- Ensure the RFP Specifies the Ground Rules for the Entire Procurement Process
Submission requirements, use of information, timeframes, points of contact, rules of engagement, etc. Although important in the private sector where a provider can call “foul” and file complaints, this is crucial in the public sector where government bodies are legally required to play “fair”.
- Include a Draft Agreement or Contract
(or the standard terms and conditions and key provisions at the very least)
Understandings as to what has been agreed to at a commercial and business level can quickly unravel when you get to the contract drafting stage, especially if the provider thinks your “standard” terms and conditions are onerous.
- Identify the Core Team and the Core Legal Team
This is important for a number of reasons. If you leave out someone important in the initial stages, the whole project can grind to a halt if an executive later decides “it’s not right for our business”. And if it’s a large IT project or outsourcing project, the amount of work will be significant and not something that the project leads can do as part of their current “day job”. Big projects require serious up-front commitments to get right.
- Be Clear on the Scoring
Not only will secrecy on scoring lead to trouble if you’re in the public sector, but it will prevent the service providers from putting their best proposal forward as the scoring system serves to identify which functions are the most important, and what information you want first and foremost from the vendor.
- Involve all Key Internal Stakeholders
They need to be kept abreast of how the negotiations are going and given the opportunity to provide their input, otherwise you’ll run into resistance during project implementation every time they don’t like something because “they weren’t consulted on that and it’s wrong”.
- Anticipate Questions and Gather the Information in Advance
Due diligence is an essential process, and any supplier worth their salt will want to have a clear understanding of what they are being asked to take on. Furthermore, if the information provided is deficient, one can expect suppliers to argue for the inclusion of contractual assumptions/dependencies regarding the areas of uncertainty. The last thing you want to do before a negotiation is reduce your credibility and your leverage with a potential supplier.
As Kit says, the RFP process is a crucial part of the sourcing process and it is necessary to invest the utmost care and attention to it. Every hour and dollar spent during development will be reclaimed many times over during the project implementation as the project will flow smoothly and generate returns quickly. For more information on constructing a great spend management RFP, see the X-emplification and X-asperation series. Although the vendors won’t, you will thank me for it.
And just remember, you can always find RFP Help Here.