The Key to Procurement Software Selection Success: Affordable RFPs!

Modern supply chains are risky. Very risky. Nothing made this fragility more clear than COVID where the world essentially broke down due to an illogical (to the point of insanity, thank you McKinsey) over-reliance on outsourcing, especially to China. (There’s a reason that SI has been promoting near-sourcing, home-shoring, and home-sourcing for over sixteen years — because this breakdown was inevitable, the only unknown was whether or not it was to be geopolitical instability/war, a massive natural disaster, or a pandemic that would be the first card to topple in the house of cards.)

Despite the best laid plans, and all the precautions you can implement, something will inevitably go wrong. Very wrong. And the disturbance will cost you greatly. That’s you you buy supply chain insurance which, depending on exposure, limits of dependency, and regionalization, will cost you between 1% and 10% of the policy value (maximum claim amount). If we take 5% as an average (which is not unreasonable), that says for every 1,000,000 of at-risk inventory you need to insure (to prevent devastating loss), you are paying $50,000.

But do you know what’s just as risky as your supply chain? The investment in the technology that you use to power your supply chain. Therefore, you should do everything you can to ensure you get it right! The best way to do this is create a good, proper, RFP to help hone in on software vendors that have appropriate solutions that should be able to fill your need while ensuring that they have the minimum globalization, size, and services you will need to consider giving them an award.

But, as per previous articles, including our last article on why THERE ARE NO FREE RFPs!, you’re probably not capable of doing this on your own. This is because a proper RFP requires

  • understanding your current Procurement Maturity
    (and while you may understand what you’re doing, it’s doubtful you understand how you are faring against the market or best-in-class)
  • understanding your current processes (based on this) vs. your target processes (based on where you should get to within a reasonable time-frame, taking into account that The Hackett Group, based on their book of numbers, discovered that it was typically an eight-year journey to best in class for large global enterprises)
  • understanding how these translate into use cases that must be supported by technology
  • understanding what technological capabilities will be required to get you there and …
  • what additional capabilities would be beneficial to simplify your tasks, identify additional value, or help your team progress in Procurement maturity over time and …
  • understanding which types of solutions / modules on the market contain the bulk of those capabilities so you know which segment of vendors to send the RFP to
  • understanding if the backbone solutions in place are worth keeping or if they should be replaced instead of augmented (i.e. would the solution with the missing capabilities completely subsume these solutions [rending them unnecessary], like simple RFPs in a Sourcing Suite or catalogs in a Procurement suite, or would they still be needed, like an ERP backbone)
  • understanding the globalization needs not just of the company, but the (potential) suppliers
  • understanding the services that will be required for installation, migration, and integration
  • understanding any unique requirements of the organization that will need to be addressed by a vendor (to ensure they can meet them) before negotiations can begin

and if you don’t know

  • what the state of the market is, or what best in class is
  • how your processes should be transformed to advanced up the maturity curve
  • how to define the appropriate use cases
  • … and the key technology capabilities that will be required
  • … and which optional capabilities will be true value add
  • how to identify solution/module types based on these capabilities
  • which solutions you have that you should keep, and which you should replace
  • the full breadth of globalization needs across the extended enterprise
  • the full breadth of services that will be required
  • which of your organizational requirements are truly unique and need to be spelled out

then you CANNOT write a good RFP. So you really, really, should pay an expert, independent, advisor (or consultancy that does not have any preferred provider partnerships) to do the appropriate Procurement and platform maturity assessments and write the RFP that you need.

Especially since this can usually be done for less than 10%, if not 5%, of the 5-year cost of the investment. (Face it, you’re going to be locked into at least three years no matter what you buy, usually five years, and even if not, it’s going to be too costly to switch out even the worst solution in less than five years.) For example, as per previous Sourcing Innovation posts on how much should you pay for a starting platform, as a mid-market you would be looking at about 250K/year in license fees for a good suite across the board (120K for a starter, but that wouldn’t have all the modules or advanced capabilities where you need them), plus implementation, migration, and integration that will run you anywhere from 125K to 500K (or more) up front. Assume 250K, and this gives you a five year baseline cost of 1.5M. 10% of that is 150K, and you can definitely get the help you need for that — and it’s a SMALL price to pay to make sure you get the acquisition right of this make-or-break technology (that can deliver a 3X to 5X+ ROI done right, and cost you Millions done wrong). (And if you’re a larger enterprise, you’d be looking at 3M to 6M for a suite for 5 years, which gives you a budget that even the Big X would be interested in, but which they SHOULD NOT be considered for as they are all preferred implementation partners for at least one of the major suites.)

So if you want true success, big savings (10% for the appropriate strategic sourcing/procurement technologies), and real ROI (3X to 5X or more), put those “FREE” RFPs in the trash where they belong and find the right expert to help you create the right Affordable RFP that will ensure the successful selection that your organization needs.