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Don’t Use a Vendor’s RFP as Your Template


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If you are replacing your existing phone system and want to see what solutions are available, you may consider issuing a request for proposal (RFP). This is a document that explains your requirements and allows bidders to create a proposal to meet your needs.
Creating an RFP document can be difficult. Vendors know this and often offer to provide you with their RFP documents as a starting point. That sounds great, doesn’t it?
STOP! Before you use a vendor’s document, consider this: Responding to an RFP takes time and money. Most companies evaluate the opportunity before deciding whether to respond. What is their chance of winning the business? How long will the process take? What level of effort is required?
Of course, they will look to the RFP document for many of these answers. If the RFP appears to be slanted toward one specific solution, and it’s not theirs, they won’t respond to it. They don’t think they have a chance to win the business.
Here’s an example: When VoIP first became available, the Cisco phones ran on the Skinny Call Control Protocol (SCCP), its own, proprietary technology. Since the technology was new, many people didn’t realize that this protocol was specific to Cisco only. We had a client tell us that he wanted a requirement for “VoIP phones and Skinny protocol.” He didn’t realize that this requirement would eliminate every other system from consideration.
I have read many vendor-prepared RFP documents. Of course, they don’t invest effort in creating these documents for the good of humanity. Their version of the RFP is designed to make their solution look better than those from the competition. They emphasize their strong points and minimize (or leave out) questions about their weaknesses.
Throughout the document, there are many clues:
  • Proprietary names for features
  • An emphasis on a perceived competitive strength (all-in-one solution, automated implementation process, international reach, etc.)
  • Few (if any) requirements for delivery and support
If you don’t write RFPs very often, you won’t see these clues when you read the document.
But potential bidders do recognize these signs. And, as noted, they will make the decision to respond, or not, based on their evaluation of their chances of winning the opportunity.
How do you create an unbiased RFP? I recommend hiring a vendor-agnostic consultant to help you. (Yes — this does reflect some bias on my part, since I am a consultant… but a vendor proxy I am not.)
"SCTC Perspective" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

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