Stop – No More RFPs

Stop – No More RFPs

I have helped originate, write, govern, and respond to over a 100 RFPs related to B2B e-commerce.  I know most if not every question that has been asked, and I have responded as all 3 of the top B2B e-commerce vendors – Oracle, IBM and hybris, so I even know how each of us will respond. Let you in on a secret?  It’s a waste of time. For me?  Yes….but mainly for you. The only people who get any benefit out of an RFP in this space is the consultancy that gets to charge big bucks for research, writing and managing a RFP.  Most companies put a lot of energy into the RFP and not as much into the actual demos.  And the demos that you request are many times generic and don’t reflect the complexity of your environment. 99 out of 100 times, the RFP process will narrow your top 3 vendors to THE SAME 3 VENDORS YOU WOULD HAVE CHOSEN ANYWAYS. 

I am not suggesting that you should abandon your selection process, I am just proposing a different way of going about the process.  And, BTW  when you ask “does your platform support blah blah blah” how did you expect them to answer? So, now that I’ve torn that down, what process should you follow? First of all, the most successful evaluations – the ones that actually understood what they were getting themselves into – they put their money into User Stories and Use Cases.  When I say they understood what they were getting into, I mean they understood the benefits, the customizations, the configurations, and the limitations related to YOUR REQUIREMENTS.  Not just loose, casually constructed requirements – requirements intentionally built to address your complexity as an organization.

No more RFPs

You want to hire someone to help you?  Hire them to do nothing but interview people, write, and prioritize use cases.  Use cases are valuable.  Both in the selection process and in design, so you kill two stones with one bird.  And make sure you hire someone that knows what questions to ask you – which means that they need to have done E-Commerce before – and specifically B2B E-Commerce. Here is a very successful process I have recently seen.  BTW – I actually had to do more work in this one, so while most of my articles are selfish – this one actually makes my team do more work.  I am going to do a more detailed document on this, but here is the process in general

  • Develop high level requirements
  • Develop the personas – who will be using your site (internal AND external)
  • What makes you complex and unique – the best use cases start by understanding your most complex areas
  • Through the intersection of personas and requirements, write use cases as a narrative or a story line “John, product manager, wants to do XXX, so he logs onto his system and does ZZZ” and write what the use case should pay attention to – that layer of complexity.
  • Pick about 10 of your most complex use cases and distribute to the companies you wish to do business with.
  • Schedule each for a 6 hour session.  Allow the vendor 1 hour to setup their platform (the best will do very little Powerpoint, and lots of showing).  Spend 3 hours doing use cases.  Spend 1 hour reviewing the architecture with your technical team.
  • Score each session with your entire team
  • Clarify with the vendor open questions asking for written responses followed by conference calls / in person
  • Ideally narrow the selection to 1 (at most 2 vendors).  This does not mean they are selected – it means if they can finish the process, they will have won the business
  • Schedule 2 days – and do a complete review of each use case using a similar format
This topic warrants a few more detailed posts, but interested in your thoughts.
There are three great resources for the B2B eCommerce selection process:
P.S.  I don’t care if you send out RFPs. I read a lot of them, and no longer have to write the responses, so I get to see where your head is at.  I do care though about making our business more efficient, and I do believe it’s a big fat waste of time.  If you want my suggestions on a better process – reach out to me anytime.