How to Master Your RFP Process - Tips from the Pros [Webinar]
Why such a large turnout? It just goes to show how deep the problem of RFPs runs for all of us.
If you missed it, don't worry, you can get the full recording here, and if you don't have time for the hour episode then check out the highlights and quick recap below.
RFPs are a problem for everyone
While the show was specifically on how to write an RFP for benefits administration, we honestly weren't sure who would listen in, but of the 275 who responded to the live-poll the demographic looked like this:
The results surprised us, once again proving that RFPs are a problem for everyone.
Luckily, our own Dave Hulsen (a former Vendor Selection Consultant in the HR Tech space) along with Businessolver's Ronnie Bushnell (a former Benefits Consultant) provided a great combination of practical HR outsourcing and RFx advice to help you find your perfect benefits administration partner. Here are some of our favorite tips.
What you need to know before you start shopping
"Compliance is one of the top reasons organizations are considering outsourcing."
"Be sure to ask specific questions so you can easily compare vendors side-by-side."
- The "shopping phase" is critical, so make sure you have a firm grip on the landscape before you start your selection.
- Give your vendors adequate information in your RFP (like demographics and plan details) so they can give you better, more thorough, answers.
- The most important thing for a purchaser to decide is how they'll score, and to make to make that scoring is as efficient as possible. (Learn more about utilizing eprocurement software here and how to do weighted scoring here).
- If you’re just looking to check price and gather information, an RFP is not the way to go! Instead, send an RFI first. (More on the difference between sending an RFI vs. and RFP here).
- When it comes to using an RFP template, start with your priorities. Ask what success look like and customize your template with that in mind.
"Be transparent with vendors. Give them a timeline.
"Find technology solutions that benefit both you and your partners."
How to qualify vendor options
"RFPs are the 'prove-it' stage. Have vendors provide specific use cases."
- Make sure you understand the practical implications of what the functionality really means. There's a big difference between configuration and customization; it’s like the difference between buying a suit size versus having one tailored to you.
- Vetting candidates is crucial when finalizing your decision. Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions.
"Be a good client, because in the end, it's a partnership."
"Don’t consider price a factor in an RFP scorecard. Decisions should never be based on price alone. Look at pricing after scoring.
Want to see it for yourself? Click the computer icon below to get the webinar & slides.
Numerous questions came in during the webinar, on everything from HRIS software to RFP tools, and since we didn't get to answer every question then, we'd like to now. (But we'll defer the benefit solutions questions to the experts).
Q. How many vendors should you invite to your RFP?
"The right number of vendors to invite to your RFP is the number of responses you're willing to grade." - Hulsen
"No more than 5 to start." - Bushnell
Q. During the information gathering stage, how do you balance getting the background you need while avoiding "analysis paralysis?"
"Start high-level, with your highest priorities." - Hulsen
"Score based on a points system, and keep it simple." - Bushnell
Pro Tip: issue in rounds. Start with an RFI, then get more serious after that.
Q. In terms of requesting proposals from providers, what kind of technology could be used to assist in breaking down the responses from the providers?
Obviously, we are going to be biased, because we make vendor management software to do exactly that:
Learn more about RFP365 RFP software here.
But whatever system you choose, we recommend selecting a tool that gives you an apples-to-apples comparison, and eradicates the need for manual Excel matrices.
Q. What are some of the RFP tools that were alluded to? Can you share the names of RFP tools and technology available on the market?
First, let's clarify what "RFP software" is not. It's not Word, Excel, PDFs, or online portals. Those tools are great, but they're not designed for Request for Proposals.
In contrast, an RFP platform let's you search and reuse previous work, communicate with vendors, and score results.
See our RFP software solution here. As you shop around, just remember to choose tools that simplify RFPs for everyone involved, both buyers and sellers.
Q. Can you elaborate on the RFP scoring process? What types of methodologies are the most common?
- If you're not quite sure what you're looking for, begin with a high-level RFI. Details here.
- Use weighted scoring to measure the value of each proposal response, and most importantly, identity those scoring parameters before you issue the RFP. Learn more here.
- When you think you're ready to send your RFP, do a quick checklist with these 5 questions.
Q. What are some best practices for engaging internal stakeholders at the outset and overcoming internal hurdles?
Always start with a discussion amongst your stakeholders.
- What does success look like? What are our biggest factors in determining success?
- What are the different categories we need to judge solutions against?
- How important is each category (functionality 50%, security 20%, speed to implement 20%, etc.)
Q. If you think about an RFI vs RFP, how many vendors should be included in each? How many are too many in each scenario?
You can naturally invite more respondents to your RFI, as you are likely looking at a broad range of candidates with an emphasis on quickly excluding solutions that won't work for you.
So this means asking those critical questions which will eliminate providers and identify those that make it to the next round.
We prefer capping our RFPs rounds at about 10 vendors. Because even if you've kept your RFP short and sweet (20 questions or less), that means each evaluator will still need to judge 200 individual responses.
Of course, using a system that supports automated scoring can cut down evaluation time even more.
Q. How do we know if we are paying the right price if we don't go through an RFP?
Set your intended budget first. Many organizations have to prepare a Total Cost Analysis (TCO) for their stakeholders. So compare the perceived value against what you think you can get approved in the budget.
If you find solutions that meet your requirements and stay within the budget...you've won.
How can technology make the process easier?
- RFP Software: The Broker & Consultant Guide [eBook] (explains how technology optimizes vendor management and selection). Get the vendor version here.
RFPs may be a problem for all, but they don't have to stay one. Here's to a better process. Cheers!
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