How often are you being contacted about new solutions from various companies with promises to improve your business? While the sales calls can be a nuisance, it’s also an opportunity to learn and explore the latest trends. When the time comes to bring new technology into your company, you’re ready to make a decision, right?
Not so fast. Because you may meet a number of vendors through your tenure as CIO/CTO, the selection can be a bit daunting. There are sales pitches, product demonstrations, comparison of offerings and services, reference checks and more that need to be performed or considered. How do you know if you’re making the right call? Depending on the size of your business, you need to vet your potential new partner. One way to do that is through the RFP process. RFP stands for “request for proposals.”
By putting out a request for proposals, you can control the process in a number of ways, including:
- The number of vendors
- Setting timeline for proposals and final decision date
- Your budget constraints
- Key criteria being sought
- Key stakeholders within your organization
Parameters help you to manage the flow of information, the amount of contacts and how many people will assist you in selecting the “winner.”
Choosing the “winner” can be a challenge. There are a number of top vendors who provide the exact products and services you need. How can you make sure you’re getting the best one? Here are some tips to help you manage the RFP process and make the right choice for your business:
- Limit the number of proposals. Think quality over quantity. By limiting the number of proposals, you can make direct calls to those vendors in which you’re interested to present a proposal. You also allow yourself proper time to review, communicate and consider each proposal.Proposals can be as short as one-page and as long as 100 pages. You never know what you’ll receive. Set a number that you think you can manage.
- Go out into the industry. If you’re considering new technology, you’re already looking at industry trends to evaluate what is right for your business now and in the future. Technology and business news outlets and publications provide great insights. Attending industry events can put you in front of vendors for immediate conversation.If you’re limited on time or resources, consider reaching out to firms like Gartner and Forrester Research. They conduct research across the technology sector. Their studies and advisors can provide you with information to connect with the right vendors to consider.
- Use your network. Your potential vendors may provide you with references of their current clients. That’s great. However, you may want to dig a little deeper to learn more about their business and performance. That’s where’ your professional and personal networks can be a golden opportunity.With your networks, you’re getting immediate feedback and/or referrals to potential new partners. Those in your professional network can share their experiences and knowledge. Those in your personal network, if in a related industry can do the same.
Also, think of your competition as a resource. They’re connected to your network and can provide feedback on vendors they’ve used or considered previously.
- Have a review team. As a CIO/CTO, the final decision on new technology may be yours. You still need to consider the impacts it could have on other areas of your business from Finance to Marketing. There are often other stakeholders who should give their input, which will hopefully make the decision easier for you.Creating a review team may take away some of the burden of the process. It is good to get other perspectives on the same document. You also can work together to clarify any misunderstandings, put together questions for the vendors and quicken the overall process. Just be careful in who you ask to involve.
Remember the saying, “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth.”
- Use a project manager. The RFP process is actually a project within itself. Why not bring on a project manager to help manage it for you? A project manager can set the timeline, conduct follow-ups and be a point of contact between you, your colleagues and potential vendors.A project manager oversees the schedule and assigned tasks throughout the process to make all runs smoothly. You make the final decision. However, you can now make that decision with a little more balance. That way, you can still support your team and the RFP process.
The decision to bring on new technology can be overwhelming. There are a number of things to consider, in gaining the support from others in your company. The RFP process can help you vet through vendors to find the best fit for your business, based on your needs, strategy and goals.
Have you gone through an RFP process? What tips do you have your follow IT leaders? Share with us in the comments.