08/6/19

3 Principles to Writing an Effective RFP

By: Rob Nocera, Partner

When system selection teams start looking for a core system, they often fear that they will select the wrong solution and cost the company lots of money with little payback. They will be enchanted by a vendor’s marketing skills and miss key information. To compensate, the selection team may hold back from vendors, believing that keeping them more in the dark will make the vendor more truthful. In fact, doing this makes it harder for the vendor to effectively describe and differentiate their solution. It also makes it harder for the selection team to understand how the solution meets their needs.

So how do you do this? Follow these 3 principles to write an effective RFP.

1. Describe your Initiative in Detail

Instead of simply stating that you need a policy administration system for annuity products, give the vendor details. Tell potential suppliers the details they need to craft a solution such as:

a. Key functionality you expect them to cover (electronic forms, interactions with the licensing system, new business compliance, call-center support, etc.).

b. Long-term goals for future products or new innovative functionality.

c. Challenges with existing systems such as poor speed to market or legacy characteristics.

d. Top system characteristics including speed to market requirements, access to data needs, or business rules engine.

2. Be Specific About Requirements

Ask questions that define the detail such as, “How are new application forms added to the system for each state,” rather than “How are new forms added?”

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Ask questions like “How does your system handle variable subaccounts,” rather than yes or no questions to get more information from a vendor. Make sure you leave room in the response form for a longer (4 or 5 sentences) response.

It is essential to keep in mind that the vendor will put their best foot forward when they respond to these questions and will likely include some marketing fluff in their response. But once you have their initial response, it is your responsibility to now verify and validate the information to distinguish between actual and aspirational capabilities. Vendor demonstrations, conversations with references, system reviews, and proofs of concept will allow you to assess and revise vendor scores to make sure you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the platform.

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