The art of the RFP
MAXIMISING THE RFP PROCESS – A TREASURY’S GUIDE TO SUCCESS
Treasury Leaders Virtual Summit
March 17, 2021
Blog from the event – David Kelin
The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is not always straightforward but if managed properly a successful outcome is guaranteed. The result being the choice of the best system or service available meeting the requirements that you have identified.
I recently took part in a webinar exploring what makes a good RFP. Anna-Lisa Natchev from Nomentia, a Finnish best-of-breed cash management SaaS solution provider for finance and treasury, and myself, discussed why traditional RFPs are not the way to success. These tend to be lengthy documents covering just about any requirements, features, and more that may or may not be needed. RFPs based on this technique are time consuming to create, answer, and review.
Choose your questions wisely
During the session, Anna-Lisa pointed out that when it comes to creating the RFP questions, you should ask yourself whether the questions are really necessary? If the vendor’s answer to the question won’t make a difference in the selection process, then you should not ask it. This simple rule of thumb should keep you in check and make the RFP more relevant to the business.
Basics of the RFP process
The basics of any RFP are the following:
Determine your needs clearly.
Write the document, ensuring that you have the input from all relevant stakeholders. This will include Tax, Legal, Procurement, Accounting, Finance to name a few.
Shortlist the vendors. Prior to the RFP, you may want to run a Request for Information (RFI) process to help focus on getting a better shortlist.
Once you received the RFPs responses from the vendors, evaluate them, based on agreed criteria, then meet the responders and make sure you have a demo of the system using your own data. After all this make the final selection.
The number of vendors who are sent the RFP should be as few as possible (maximum 3) so you are saving valuable time and you can focus on finding the right solution.
Make sure the vendors can ask questions
The basis of a good RFP is to prepare well before you start the writing. You should make sure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to ask questions which are relevant to their areas of interest so that they can provide you with useful answers. Be realistic in your goals and don’t look for everything immediately - create a “must have” list and a “nice to have” list and place more emphasis on the “must haves”. You could also explain what your future strategy is going to be and ask the vendors for their help in achieving your goals. Crucially, you should be prepared to use the RFP process as an opportunity for improving your existing processes. See it as an exercise in a catalyst for change, not a mirror of existing processes which may be out of date or inefficient.
Nomentia’s tips on the RFP process
Anna-Lisa gave some excellent insights on how Nomentia tackles the RFP process and it was interesting to get the perspective of a vendor. They want to engage with their clients even during the RFP process to provide them with the best possible answers that can help the evaluation process immensely. Anna-Lisa also suggested that vendors should be honest with themselves: if you feel like you couldn’t serve the prospect well with your solution, do not reply to the RFP, save the time both this way. This seems an admirable position to take and one which is refreshingly honest. Finally, the RFP process should not be seen as means of catching the vendor out by asking difficult questions. The goal is to choose the best available system or service so give the vendor every opportunity to show their wares.
The takeaway from this session is that the RFP process should be viewed as a collaborative exercise requiring an openness from both parties so that in the end the system or service that best fits the client’s needs is chosen.