I?ve written more than 20 RFPs for various clients, responded to way more than that, won more than my share mainly getting new clients, and assisted my RFP clients? managing their selected vendor?s (more frequently successful than usual) implementations many times.
Unlike most RFP participants, I?ve had the inclination and orientation to take advantage of my experiences, coupling with my legal training to analyze the acquisition process, learn the right lessons, and refine them into effective repeatable methodologies that I use with clients, write about including my Discovering REAL Business Requirements for Software Project Success book, and teach in public and private seminars.
Many if not most RFPs result in failed projects, which invariably are blamed on the selected vendor. As Chip?s article accurately implies, inevitable failure is created usually and unknowingly by the RFP issuer. Capable vendors stay in business in large part because they compensate for buyers? deficiencies; but this also builds many vendors? (somewhat deserved) reputations for over-reaching.
The biggest cause of RFP failure is the buyer?s inadequate definition of their own REAL, business requirements, which are what the vendor should be proposing a product and/or service to satisfy. Instead the buyer tries to specify the expected product or system, which often turns out not to be what they actually need.
Such mistaking a product/service for one?s requirements is common in the software (and other) industries but often is aggravated by RFPs. For instance, many buyers mistakenly assume the vendor will know their requirements, and too many (soon to fail) vendors fall into the trap of believing they indeed do know perhaps better than the buyer what the buyer requires. In other cases, RFPs are simply thinly-veiled efforts to get around an-intended-to-protect-them formal buying process, usually in order to buy a particular product the buyer already has decided upon, which too often turns out not to be what's really needed.
The successful vendor responding to an RFP is one who not only wins the business but also delivers promised products and services that actually meet the buyer?s needs.
I?ve found the key to vendor success starts with focusing on the buyer?s REAL business requirements, showing specifically how the vendor?s products/services will satisfy them, presenting an informed task plan that understandably will deliver on time and in budget, and then carrying through as promised.
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