Top 10 words or phrases to ban from an RFP response, Part 1

In this two-part article we are going to give you the top 10 words or phrases you should ban from RFP responses if you want a meaningful response to your technology / technology-backed / technology assisted RFP that’s not full of meaningless buzzwords, ambiguity, misdirection, or some combination thereof. The simple fact of the matter is that if you allow any of these phrases, you are not getting an answer, or at least not an answer you need.

10. Savings

Let’s get straight to the point. “Savings” do not exist. Cost avoidance does exist, but if a sourcing event identifies “savings”, it doesn’t mean that you negotiated savings, it meant that you were overspending and that the event identified that overspend so you could make changes to your Procurement to prevent that overspend. That’s it. Savings is money the business accumulates over time. The other definition is finding a way to truly reduce the amount of time, material, or resources to make something — which is something that is up to your supplier to figure out, not you. Your job is to buy at the lowest cost + margin the vendor/service provider will sell for and avoid overspend. The only “savings” you can realize is in the amount of time a process takes (which is why you buy appropriate software platforms to minimize your effort) or the amount of resources a product takes (with a better design). That’s true savings.

9. Market Intelligence

This one absolutely drives the doctor crazy and it should drive you crazy too. WTF is “market intelligence”. The market is not intelligent. In fact, ever since the introduction of Reaganomics, predicated on the false belief that a rising tide floats all boats (as discussed in Why America Abandoned the Greatest Economy in History), one could argue that the market has become decidedly unintelligent (at the same time that American IQ’s have dropped as per a recent article on The Hill, which, of course, we all blame on X).

Now, they may promise better insight into market pricing (but what is that, especially if you can just buy a real-time data feed to commodity indices or public sector contract prices), market dynamics (but isn’t that just buy and sell data), inflation or cost changes (but that requires good predictive analytics, do they have that technology and do they know how to use it), and so on, but only true experts can really provide insight that is likely to come true. And do they have those experts? And what’s their historical accuracy? Most firms don’t have leading experts in the top 10%. Basic math says only 1 / 10 “experts” are in the top 10% and only 1 / 10 companies offering a “market intelligence” service are in the top 10. So ask exactly what information/advice they provide you, how they provide it, how often they update it, who in particular does any manual predictions, and so on.

8. Diversity

Diversity is important. It’s very important. It’s absolutely necessary if you need a supplier to come up with innovative solutions to a problem. But simply allowing a supplier to say they are diverse or check a “diversity” box doesn’t tell you anything. First of all, what’s their definition of diverse. One white woman on a board that otherwise is entirely composed of greedy old white men? Might make their definition of diverse, but definitely, definitely, definitely wouldn’t make the doctor‘s definition of diversity.

True diversity is men and women of all ethnicities, experiential backgrounds, educational backgrounds, and so on that are available to you in the areas in which you employ people. Especially those from diverse backgrounds divergent from your founders / management. And it’s not an arbitrary target, it’s representative of the average diversity in your area. As we have said before, saying you want 50% women in an IT or Engineering company when only 25% of graduates are women is not achievable (but 25% is).

7. Green Procurement

What does “green procurement” mean. the doctor bets you have a definition. And the doctor bets its probably bull crap. Not to say that your intentions, or goals, are bad, or that what you think it is is bad, but that how a less than scrupulous supplier will respond to it is bad. Because when it comes to “green”, there is an awful lot of “greenwashing”, “greenlighting”, “greenrinsing”, “greenhushing”, “greenshifting”, “greencrowding”, or other decidely ungreen practices out there, and if you’re not careful, a supplier will sell you one of these not-so-green services when you ask for a “green” solution. (And, in fact, you’d be greener if you simply asked Kermit the Frog to buy you some lettuce from the local farm. After all, no one knows better than Kermit that It’s Not Easy Being Green.)

6. Sustainable Procurement

What does this mean? It’s even more ambiguous than “green procurement”. Does it mean that what you are buying is sustainable, or does it mean that the process is sustainable. Technically, under the rules of English Grammar (you know, that system of language rules they don’t seem to teach anymore), “sustainable” is an adjective to the “procurement” noun that follows, so as long as the vendor/service provider supports your Procurement process in a way that is sustainable to you, they’ve technically met the requirement, right? Right! But what you want is sustainable goods and services, but that’s not technically what you asked and the sneaky slippery suppliers will try to use that ambiguity to give an ambiguous response and slip a bid in that you shouldn’t consider. So again, don’t ask if they have sustainable procurement, ask what efforts they make to use renewables, minimize resource (water, energy, non-renewable material) use, ensure their suppliers are using sustainable practices and financially sound, and so on.

In other words, buzzwords are not answers, and any provider that simply spews slang at you is not solving serious situations that are relevant to your business. So ban the buzzwords, get deep insight, and make the right decisions.

Of course, since we started at 10, these aren’t the worst of the buzzwords. Not the worst by far! In our next part, we’ll review the top 5. Stay tuned.