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Waxing Poetic about RFP’s

There once was an RFP describe the image
That seemed simplistic to me

It distilled strategic needs
Into tasks, steps and fees

Real value no one could see

With the focus these days on ROI and metrics to ascertain the value a website or a brand has to your business, it’s surprising to me that more companies don’t reflect an “attention to value (‘ATV’ for you acronym lovers)”in their RFP process. While most of our business has always been referrals from current or past clients and others with whom we’ve worked, we routinely receive RFP’s, which are sent out to a collection of firms more or less like ours.

Wikipedia defines a “request for proposal” (referred to as RFP) as “an invitation for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. A bidding process is one of the best methods for leveraging a company’s negotiating ability and purchasing power with suppliers. The RFP process brings structure to the procurement decision and allows the risks and benefits to be identified clearly upfront.”

The operative words are “leverage” and “structure.” “Value,” or something synonymous is conspicuously absent in the description and consequently in the process. While I understand that leverage is advantageous for keeping costs down, and structure can be useful for making accurate comparisons among vendors, the need for control that these attributes enforce often tends to come at the expense of teasing out who in fact will be the vendor most apt to solve your business problem – who is the “value provider.”

Wikipedia goes on to say, “The creativity and innovation that suppliers choose to build into their proposals may be used to judge supplier proposals against each other, at the risk of failing to capture consistent information between bidders and thus hampering the decision making process.” When the primary goal of an RFP is to provide an “apples to apples” comparison rather than to engage with vendors in search of the true value provider, the result is “hit or miss” at best.

This is a significant topic, which I will be exploring further. I’m eager to hear your points-of-view.

Photo: Pete McArthur