Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working with a team responding to a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a range of IT services.  The scope is broad with five different sets of services organised into three groups.

I accept that it is complicated, but the RFP consists of 60 documents running to a total of over 1,000 pages.  With only a few weeks to respond I do not believe that it is possible for any individual or even team to fully grasp all of the nuances in there. To add to the workload, amendments to the RFP and clarifications to questions were coming in two days before the submission was due.  And that means a sub-optimal outcome for us and for the customer.

But there is a winner in this – the advisory firm who has provided all of this material.  Much of it is familiar from other procurements and contains the usual tropes that indicate a fairly crude ‘find and replace’ exercise like putting ‘the’ in front of their client’s name.

It also includes terms and conditions that will clearly be unacceptable to any supplier – such as requiring a credit for late delivery of three times the value of the service being delivered.

And when I said ‘clarifications’ above, most of those fell into the category of being both completely accurate and wholly unhelpful.

All of this means an extended period of negotiation for the advisors.  And that means more fees for them.

Organisation only conduct procurements like this infrequently. Of course they need help. And they deserve better help than I have seen provided in this and other cases.

What would that look like? 

More collaboration for sure. 

Less keeping the prospective suppliers at arm’s length from the customer.

A focus on defining what the customer is really looking for.

Less of the over-prescriptive requirements that seek to normalise the responses such that the decision to buy is based on price alone.

Reasonable approaches to the transfer of risk that try to keep things proportionate.

All in all a more mature and sensible approach that puts the future customer and supplier relationship front and centre thus getting the new contract off to the best possible start.

Who knows, the advisors might get even more business out of that.