When you think about what to ask in your RFP, consider the following recommendations, as they will help get you the information you need from the vendors and make your job of evaluating RFP responses much easier.
Gathering questions from all stakeholders – Sometimes software selection teams just send out a template to the various departments and ask them to submit their requirements. You’ll get lots of question, but they won’t be very differentiating. Help your internal departments think about new technologies, service innovations, or opportunities that would significantly improve their areas.
Remove questions that will not provide differentiation – Rather than listing everything that the system must do, eliminate those questions that likely have a similar answer from all the vendors. It is not always easy to anticipate this, but you can make certain assumptions. For example, if the vendor has over six customers who are using the system for whole life products, it would not be necessary to ask about all of the related functionality for whole life. Ask only questions that are differentiating about whole life products. Balance the questions so that the questions you think will provide more differentiation are more detailed and specific, while the questions you believe all the vendors will meet are more high level and generalized.
Organize questions by functional area – When creating the RFP, you might think it is easier to group questions by department, or user group; however, grouping questions by functional capability will make it easier for you process and analyze RFP responses. It also helps ensure you aren’t asking the same question multiple times overweighting the functionality when you score the responses. As a side benefit, vendors will be able to respond more quickly.
Structure questions to a common response format – The common format should contain the following elements.
Invite the vendor to provide details about how they meet a requirement rather than just asking if they meet the requirement. Having more details about the method by which the requirement is met will allow you to make better judgments about the vendors’ capabilities when you review the responses.
Impose a structure of response that allows the vendor to respond with a few sentences. Although you want details, you don’t want a manual. Limit the vendor so you are not getting page long answers for each response.
Create multiple-choice responses for the vendors that are quick for the vendor to answer and will clarify the response. Response choices that specify whether the function is in the current release or future releases, or whether the functionality is out of the box, or can be accomplished with configuration will help you get better answers. With insurers aggressively pursuing a no (or few) modification strategy to lower their long-term future upgrade costs, there is great value in understanding whether the feature is truly supported out of the box.
So as you are out picking your spring flowers and planting your garden, be thinking about how you can improve your RFP questions. If you want to dig a little deeper, check out the whitepaper Dazed and Confused by System Selection? 11 Ways to Ensure Success.