Confident of doing a technology RFP? Do an RFI anyway. It will save you!

Imagine the scene.

You’re managing a CRM project and have pretty much decided on your requirements and a list of potential vendors to partner with. Now imagine a future where you find yourself struggling with a vendor and technology that doesn’t deliver as you’d hoped. Imagine having expectations and perceptions dashed as the solution you’ve bought becomes known as a expensive white elephant.

Of course not every CRM project goes awry but many do as requirements and scope changes and capabilities once promised in a pitch fail to materialise.

So how do you mitigate the latter part of the scenario?

Simple, just follow these simple steps.

  1. Make sure you do an RFI despite thinking you have the confidence to proceed straight to RFP.

Conducting an RFI gives you the chance to check and validate your requirements. You might find yourself adding new requirements while tweaking existing ones. An RFI also allows you to learn more from vendors and to widen the pool of vendors from which you understand new technology, features and capabilities. It’s understandable that many go straight to Salesforce or Microsoft’s Dynamics but it’s worth considering some of the younger, more nimble players entering the market.

Without an RFI it is likely that requirements will be skewed to what the business thinks it wants — usually an incomplete set of requirements or even ‘dated’ ones based on previous experience. The latter is dangerous when technology moves on. There’s a risk of requiring an antiquated solution that excludes better solutions.

2. Use your RFI time to really interrogate what vendors can offer.

An RFI is a valuable way to glean technology insight from a wider range of vendors. It is especially important to include challenger newcomer vendors in the RFI to get an alternative view than favourite incumbent or entrenched vendors.

Consider carefully what they offer from features and APIs to other aspects of integration. If doing an RFP for a new car, you’d be at risk of requiring what your old car does, without exploring what better features are now available in the marketplace such as safety, security, infotainment or electric instead of petrol/diesel.

3. Collaborate with vendors

Show vendors (within reason) what you need CRM or another technology platform for. In the past we’ve collaborated with clients to build visualised customer journey maps in the hope that vendors can understand what we’re trying to achieve. This helps both parties understand what is actually possible.

4. Be open and honest with vendors as to why you’re conducting your RFI.

Make clear to them that you want to be 100% and want to avoid making a rash RFP decision that could come back to haunt you.

You might be tempted to rush to RFP but hopefully this comment piece will help you consider the alternative.

At Strategy Activist we work with clients to conduct RFI and RFP work. We help clients identify requirements, craft documentation, build robust scoring mechanics and help manage competing vendors. To learn more about how Strategy Activist can help visit www.strategyactivist.com