When looking for a new technology partner, using a Request for Proposal can be a great way to initiate a long-term commercial relationship.
It saves time when addressing a number of potential service providers, and at the same time allows you to make sure that you don’t miss out on your perfect match due to overly formal communication requirements.
Expand on Business Requirements
Some RFP document checklists suggest that you only need to provide basic information to describe the business issue. While it is important to trust your future service provider to conduct a comprehensive requirement analysis, it is your job to clearly elaborate on your company’s expectations, background, business processes and current bottlenecks.
There are three phases of obtaining detailed requirements — information gathering, analyzing and recording. It is important to complete at least the first step through actual interviews with users, customers and other stakeholders. The resulting use scenarios should provide sufficient data for suitable product offers, accurate time frame estimation and an overall budget quote.
Set Realistic Expectations
Your project should have specific and measurable goals, so that everyone will know whether it is a success or not once the system is fully deployed. Most of the time there will be some sort of comparable performance metrics, expressed in numbers, that are already tracked in the legacy environment, such as a page response time on peak loads.
Some goals can be qualitative rather than quantitative, defining non-functional constraints, such as the need to integrate with existing IT infrastructure. Your RFP should also include all related rationales and assumptions, so that you are on the same page with your prospective technical partner.
Discuss Your Vision
You may specify the products and services needed, but it is also wise to leave some room for the provider’s expert opinion. This is how you find out if they respond quickly, listen to your needs and have domain expertise.
The analyzing stage should bring positive chemistry into your relationship. Similar to dating, you want to make sure that the connection is right and the communication is clear, so that you don’t find yourself having to break up with your IT system vendor after the launch.
Look Beyond the Technology
An RFP aims to improve your daily routine by helping you find the right technology. However, it is worth investing time and effort into researching other selection criteria beyond the basic problem / solution fit. The selection criteria should include:
- Company profile
- Total cost of solution
- Customer care
- Technology expertise
- Solution reliability
- Technical support
Trust Facts Only
Never believe promises that seem too good to be true. If you are being promised high quality and low cost with quick implementation, be sure to ask for the bare facts. Your decision needs to be based on reality instead of empty promises.
The first thing to do is to obtain the contact information of satisfied customers, and talk to them about their actual experience with a project manager. Then, get to know the proposed solution thoroughly. Screenshots are not enough for this – an actual demo or even a personalized prototype is a better option.
Be sure to test the company’s openness and solution reliability as much as possible before making the final decision. This is the best way to ensure a happy business relationship with a solution that works right for you.
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