Everything We Hate About the RFP Process


We talk to a lot of folks about RFPs and creating responses. Which means we hear a lot of frustrations (as you might guess). Conversations quickly turn into rant sessions. Most people agree they frankly hate traditional RFP response, but that it's inevitable. 

We agree. And you're not alone. Here are the loudest (and most frequent) gripes we've heard. Let's all get some angst off our chests.


1. The RFP Process is just too complicated!

Forms. Get on a government or corporate procurement website and you’ll likely get lost in forms and checklists almost instantly. Red tape abounds.

Pet peeve: general questions that aren’t really relevant, and are clearly generic recycled "stock questions." 

[Personal story]. I was responding to a county Request for Proposal to provide a software platform. But we had to prove our employees had the appropriate insurance to work on-site and drive rental cars there. Seems valid. But here’s the rub: no one was going to set foot on-site.

The requirement was archaic, it didn't acknowledge that we live in a digitally connected world (I wouldn't have to be present to deliver product).

Technology has evolved, but the process hasn't. 

Commodity codes. I can never figure out what commodity codes I need. I know the intent was to categorize projects neatly in these tiny buckets…but let's be honest, it doesn't really work. The world has changed. Searching now means dynamic engines like Google set a high bar. Stagnant categories just don't cut it anymore. It's keywords or bust. 

 

2. We're using PAPER? Really?!

Stuck in their ways. One county I interviewed requires all proposals to be physically delivered. The procurement manager believes that her state’s statutes don’t allow electronic submission…even email or disks.

When I asked one of the county administrators about this, he told me that the manager had developed this perspective after 20 years on the job.

Afraid to change. Rules like that may have been true 20 years ago, but the game has changed. And if we want to stay in the game, we need to upgrade our process. Often, what we hear is that "getting buy in" for going digital, is the greatest challenge. No surprise. Education, awareness, and adoption are always the biggest battles.

 

3. You aren't asking the right questions!

Painted into a corner. We once responded to an RFP which completely boxed us in. They were the wrong questions for what we did. But I had to answer them. 

Now, instead of offering solutions, I was on the defensive. 

Case in point. We were writing a response to the question "does your platform support PDF downloads?" (Meaning posting a PDF to online portal). 

Technically, the answer was no. Not because weren't digital (as the Issuer would likely assume), but because we were more digital. Our RFP software functions as an living application, not a stagnant URL. It was like someone asking us if we were capable of sending a telegraph, when we were offering text messaging.

Too specific. The problem was, the question was so defined that it was limiting. We couldn't answer "yes," but our "no" wasn't the no they thought it was. The rigidity of the question painted us into a corner, and didn't get at the heart of what we did. 

So even though we might have had the right solution for 2015, the question was tailored to technology from 2000. Which mean the vendor with outdated technology looked like a winner.

The take-Away. If you are an Issuer or buyer, consider asking more open-ended questions. Rather than yes or no, give your vendors some room to explain how they would solve your problem. 

Do these frustrations sound familiar? 

These are signs expectations aren't being met, and something is broken.  

 

It's a problem. We agree. But it doesn't have to stay that way.

Make responding easier

 

 

 

 

 

  **Image credit: Hubspot