In this two-part article we are giving 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.
5. Best Practices
This one might drive you even crazier than some of the buzzwords coming up. It would dive the doctor crazier than the next two buzzwords except for the fact that vendors/service providers are a bit more honest here — they are delivering “their” best practices. However, their “best practices” are not necessarily “best practices” appropriate for you or your organization, not necessarily better than their peers, not necessarily new, not necessarily old, and so on. It’s vague. Too damn vague. You want them to describe explicitly what process / service improvements they will bring to you, how those improvements will help you, and what results the vendor/service provider expects that you will see. Not just “best practices”. As the doctor recently read somewhere, “best practices” are the learnings based on what a service provider was doing three years ago. Some will still be relevant, but with markets and technology always evolving, some won’t. Again, you need solutions, not “best practices”.
4. Sustainable Practices
Yes, you want sustainable practices. Sustainability is key, and not just because it’s becoming a regulatory compliance issue, or necessary to maintain a good brand image, but because it’s necessary to maintain a source of supply and a reliable supply chain. However, at the end of the day, “sustainable practices” is just as vague as “best practices” or “sustainable procurement” and even more impossible to gauge without deep details. You absolutely, positively, without a doubt need your vendors to describe their practices and processes in detail so that you can judge how sustainable they are and if they are sufficiently sustainable for you.
This one should drive you crazy. How many times have you read “we are a very innovative” or “our innovative solution” or “innovation is our number one goal”. Great. WTF does that mean? What have they done that is ACTUALLY innovative? And how did that innovation create a better product/service/solution than you could get from their three closest competitors? What is their latest improvement, what does it actually do, how is it better than the last version, how does it compare to the closest competitor, and is it good enough to actually warrant a cost increase? Every vendor and their mascot claims to be innovative, but most aren’t, and most of those that are, aren’t that much more innovative than their closest competitor, and it rarely justifies a significant quote increase.
Yes, you want automation, but only if the automation is appropriate for the solution you need, the business processes you use, and the business practices you want to adopt. Plus, you want controllable automation, not an automated product/service that is not controllable. If you allow a provider to say they have automation, they are going to assume that’s enough of an answer and you won’t actually know what kind of automation they have, to what extent it can be customized, how hard it is to configure, how often it needs to be checked/monitored, etc. You need the vendor to specify how the solution works.
Especially Gen-AI. As we have explained repeatedly, there is no true AI, most marketing is bull crap, and when companies try to do too much or go too broad with AI, what they deliver is Artificial Idiocy.
Besides, as a buyer of technology for a technology, technology-backed or technology-assisted solution, you don’t care about AI vs. no AI, you care about whether the solution will do what you need it to do, do it efficiently, do it effectively, and do it in a way that can be supported for the lifetime of the solution. The best products in our space have never needed AI, or even had access to AI, and they worked just fine using traditional analytical algorithms, optimization, classical machine learning trained and tweaked to a specific problem, and so on.
Let’s be clear that the promises of “AI” are not new, and that these promises have NOT delivered for the last 60 years. Let’s repeat that. AI has NOT delivered for the past SIXTY years. In the 1970s, shortly after the founders of AI started researching early systems, it was hailed as the future of computing. Nope. Then in the 1980s we were told AI would give us expert systems that would replace specialists. Nope. Then in the 1990s we were told 4GLs and 5GLs would enable the emergence of true AI. Nope. Then in the 2000s with the emergence of the internet and early distributed (cloud) computing models and the ability to create deep neural networks, we were told we’d finally get true AI. Nope. Then in the 2010s with the emergence of turn-key cloud platforms, map-reduce, multi-core processors supporting more parallel computation, and neural network optimization, we were again told we’d have true AI. Nope. And now, with ChatGPT and Gen-AI, we’re told we’re finally there. H3ll NO! AI is BS. Don’t look for AI. Look for solutions that work.
So ban the buzzwords. Maybe then you’ll get some real insight into real solutions.