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How to Take the Headache out of RFP?

Surprisingly how more and more digital companies are suffering from the implementation of their RFP approach when selecting a vendor or a technology that are supposed to satisfy their development needs but turns out to be a wrong choice after all.

Below we are to focus on answering the most common questions: “why does it happen?” and a philosophic one “what to do about it?”

The first actual problem is considering that you know the best what your needs are. Do you think the same way right now? Sorry to disappoint you: you don’t. The thing is in the world of digital products development the process between the start and finish is pretty challenging and changeable. So, the final result, which makes you happy, by the way, may occur to be seriously different from what you planned at a start. Still, often at the beginning, the RFP approach user pretends not just to know precisely what he needs but how to create it as well.

The problem is the RFP narrows down the circle of vendor’s new ideas and concepts and, what is the worst part, it keeps you out of even knowing about these things at all. It is similar to the situation when you are going to purchase an ocean tour in summer and declare to the agent long list of criterion of your perfect stay: only white sand, closed beach, no locals, free drinks and so on but it usually happens that in terms of the same budget you will skip a gorgeous and not expensive hotel in Italy on a pebble beach where charming Italian girls pass along. Why did it happen? You simply kept your agent from letting you know about more opportunities by pretending you know better than him. Unfortunately, this is not true.

The second issue is we forget that a digital product is created by a human. Supplying an exhaustive range of parameters and requirements to a vendor along with a perception that this job will be performed by sort of machines totally misleads you. Thinking about people as robots is nothing but neglecting the importance of psychological, cultural and reflective “alloy” of both companies, yours and a vendor’s in terms of people, communication, collective thinking, corporative culture, worldview and so on. Pretending that you deal with robotic machines and ignoring those things as such that have no meaning is the opposite of true. It would be same if you pay the artist to write a picture of a beautiful landscape for your dining room but you will tell him exactly how to blend paints. Let him some space for his genius.

The third issue is you need to pay for a product, not a project. It means that due to the RFP approach the bidder usually describes a number of tasks to be performed and the number of parameters to be matched, and then asks a vendor to calculate the cost of all that. One of the problems is that when the project is finished, the bidder’s budget remains too small or is absent at all for further maintenance and development. In this case, the risk of making a huge investment with the very low ROI is obvious. On the contrary, the digital product has to be revised, modified, changed and innovated during the development process to become as original and perfect as should immaculately satisfy the customer’s needs.

When making a single-time payment for the full project is a too risky strategy with usually unexpected yield and low ROI, a company’s smart choice is to buy a digital product that can be modified and improved during its design process. So, buying an MVP for starters and then continuously amending it to reach the best results is a totally right solution that is proven by the experience of lots of world-known companies. Such approach brings the much better product, with lower costs and minimize risks. In addition, it allows to focus less on the fixed submitted product parameters and gives more space for wider vision and progressive solutions.

As long as we know the roots of the problem, we can define the possible ways to overcome it: 

  1. Before submission of the RFP you’d better have an informal discussion with one or several potential vendors, exchange the visions of the digital product that can be created and which will serve the best due to your needs. Even the most abstract things should be taken into account when talking to them: cultural specifics, worldview, the system of values, corporate approaches and as many other issues as you can find. The best vendor for you would be that company which values and atmosphere comply with yours the most tightly.
  2. Let your vendor think and create broadly, out-the-box. A vendor has to look like the talented artist whose brushstrokes are as sweeping as genial.
  3. Before you start preparing an RFP or making any further moves decide whether you need just an accurate performer of requirements and parameters precisely as you’ve set or a partner who is capable to extend your business development bonds and to deliver you success. Think about risks sharing with a vendor and how you could minimize them by making a right choice.

And always remember that choosing between paying for a project with fixed parameters and a progressive MVP models, that is much more flexible, the last approach will always win.

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