In this series we discuss the process of acquiring new technology for your contact centre, and provide some suggestions to ensure a successful project.
This article is the second in the series.
Going to Market – The Tender or Proposal Process
There are effectively two different processes to use when going to market for a new technology solution. The first is a Request for Tender (RFT) and the second is a Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFT can be used by anyone, but is mostly used by Government departments and large corporations. An RFP is more frequently used by smaller organisations.
So what is the difference?
An RFT is more formal with very prescriptive processes and extensive compliance requirements relating to the response. An RFP is less formal and allows more collaboration between prospective vendors and the purchaser in evaluating the different solutions.
An RFT is used where it is necessary for a company to be able to demonstrate its processes were fair and objective, and did not unfairly advantage or disadvantage any one supplier. Because it is more prescriptive there is less opportunity for the purchaser to ask additional questions or seek clarification of responses, and less opportunity for the vendor to provide additional information that may assist in their response.
An RFP allows less formal interaction between vendor and purchaser, which facilitates the exchange of information and allows purchasers to explore functionality that might be most relevant to them. It often results in a better, more appropriate solution for the purchaser but can make claims of favouritism harder to defend.
Another key consideration is deciding which vendors to send the RFT or RFP to. Some companies have a policy of always using an open tender – this often means the existence of an RFT/RFP is advertised in the newspaper and the documents are available to anyone to lodge a response. This will often result in a large number of responses that require evaluation, including the same solution from multiple vendors or resellers. However, it is a better alternative if you are not sure which vendors are in the market or which solutions are available.
Some companies use a Request for Information (RFI) step to do a very high level cull of prospective vendors, then follow up with an RFP or RFT. There is little benefit in doing this because the requirements are specified at a high level with little granularity (otherwise it would be an RFT or RFP – not an RFI). This effectively means that most vendors will be able to meet those high level requirements, resulting in very few vendors being eliminated at this stage (remember – the differences between solutions is often in the detail). The other differential is price – and an RFI really doesn’t give vendors enough information to provide even a budgetary estimate on price. Because of this there is a real danger of a strong vendor being eliminated at this point because they have been honest (or provided a worst-case scenario) in relation to price. Another vendor may have provided a very low price just to get to the next stage.
The other alternative is to put out a ‘closed’ tender – only send the tender to a small number of vendors to respond to. This requires an understanding of the vendors and solutions in the market but usually results in a lot less work to evaluate the responses.
Consider engaging professional assistance that is independent and had no commercial links to any technology vendor. Engage someone who has a view of the solutions and vendors in the market, and can advise which are likely to be able to meet your requirements.
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