Melissa Swartz
Melissa guides enterprise business clients through the complex process of finding the right communications solutions for their business, and getting...
Read Full Bio >>

Melissa Swartz | October 01, 2013 |


Do You Really Need an RFP? Because It's Really a Pain...

Do You Really Need an RFP? Because It's Really a Pain... Nevertheless, the inconvenience today may well yield better results at the end of the process.

Nevertheless, the inconvenience today may well yield better results at the end of the process.

It's true--a Request For Proposal (RFP) process can take a lot of time and effort. So when does it make sense to go through the effort?

1. When you are making a complex purchase, an RFP will help you organize both yourself and the vendors who are bidding the products and/or services you plan to obtain. Putting your requirements in writing up front helps you to decide what capabilities are essential and what is optional.

2. When you need more information about the product and/or service, how it works, and how it will meet your specific needs. In an RFP, you can describe a situation or a problem and the bidders can explain how their solution would address your specific issue(s).

3. When you want some protection from over-promising and under-delivering, an RFP gives you proof that specific claims were made and makes your position very strong if problems arise. This protection is much stronger when you include the RFP and the successful vendor's response in the final contract (See "5 Tips for Successfully Installing a New Telephony Solution").

4. When you want to demonstrate serious intent to make a change from your existing technology or provider. If you go to the trouble to create an RFP, the vendor community knows that you are making a commitment to review your options.

5. To give you leverage not only with the incumbent vendor, but with also with the other bidders. The incumbent gets the message that the golden goose may wander off, and the other bidders also know that the process is competitive and that they need to put a good offer on the table.

So how do you create a good RFP? One approach (admittedly self-serving) is to hire a consultant to write it for you. Experienced consultants have developed a methodology for creating RFPs and know what information vendors need in order to provide a complete proposal. In addition, consultants are familiar with the marketplace and know how to create a document that elicits the best responses for a client.

But if you insist on writing the RFP yourself, here are some tips:

1. Be clear on what capabilities are "Required" and which are "Desired" or optional. It is very difficult to compare proposals when they are for different sets of capabilities. The document should have a well-defined set of core requirements that every proposal must meet.

2. Insist that the bidders are clear about which capabilities are included in the system as proposed, and what capabilities are available for additional costs. It is often hard to distinguish between a "system capability" and an "included system capability."

3. Specify your anticipated growth so that the system can be sized to meet your needs over time.

4. Have the bidders spell out server requirements, including who provides them, the OS, CPU and memory requirements, and whether they can be virtualized (if this matters to you). Add in any costs there may be for customer-provided servers in your cost comparison of the proposals.

5. Include terms and conditions that your company requires in an agreement (such as including the RFP and the successful vendor's response in the final contract). In their proposals, most vendors will take exception to terms and conditions that they don't like. While they are not necessarily final, this will allow you to get a feel for the effort that will be involved in negotiating a contract with the various bidders.

6. Create your own format for the pricing and require the bidders to use it. This will allow you to have a common format for your comparison. In addition, we require the pricing to be submitted in Excel format rather than .PDF so that we can cut and paste into a comparison document.

7. Address your requirements for installation and testing. After all, the best solution in the world must be properly implemented in order to function as expected. Your requirements should state what recourse is available to you if the system does not perform as described in the vendor's proposal; otherwise, you will be left with minimal options if you use the vendor's contract language.

8. Define your acceptance requirements, including proper system operation, completion of all training, and provision of all required documentation (including passwords, IP addresses, copies of software, system documentation, training materials, etc.). Withhold a significant percent (we prefer 25%) of the contract value until acceptance so that the vendor has an incentive to complete the project and fix any remaining items on the punch list.

9. Specify your training requirements including the number of end users to be trained as well as the number of system administrators. Also specify your training format; do you want classroom training with live phones or will a webinar work? (See "5 Tips for Successfully Installing a New Telephony Solution for more information on this).

10. Specify your ongoing support requirements, including response times for major and minor outages. Be sure to define a major outage; most vendor contracts have definitions that may not meet your needs. Also define response times for moves, adds and changes unless you plan on handling those yourself.


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

December 13, 2017

The two major vendors in the Unified Communications space, Cisco and Microsoft, are both strongly promoting their cloud UC deployments. If cloud UC is on your enterprises roadmap, but you dont want

November 29, 2017

As video conferencing use rises in the enterprise, businesses are looking for ways to bring this technology out of traditional conference room and make it more broadly accessible. That's made the h

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.