Time for a New RFP

As you all know the dreaded RFP—or Request for Proposals—is a source of tension, angst and for many of us, a lot of grunt work.

Plus, the work that goes into an RFP is often a matter of business survival: losing out on an RFP bid process can leave a business with that sinking feeling.

But here’s an idea: why not turn the acronym into something positive and, well, collaborative!

Fifteen years into the twenty-first century, I think it’s time to revise the way companies think about and handle the RFP – especially for their strategic suppliers. What if instead of a Request for Proposal, the RFP became a Request for Partner™?

Sound radical and impossible? I think not! Actually progressive companies that buy in to the Vested “what’s-in-it-for-we” (WIIFWe) mindset are already doing it! They are looking for like-minded partners who want to collaborate together for the long-term win-win, based on trust and shared-value outcomes. For them, this is a modest proposal.

So why not update and flip the old-school, transaction-based Request for Proposals into something much more meaningful and useful—a blueprint for a partnership?

Author, educator and business consultant Kate Vitasek is an internationally recognized innovator in outsourcing. Vitasek’s approaches and insights have been published in more than 200 articles and five books, including “Vested Outsourcing: Five Rules That Will Transform Outsourcing” and “Vested: How P&G, McDonald’s and Microsoft are Redefining Winning in Business Relationships.”

A version of this post was originally published on the Vested blog.
—-
A note from Adrian Gonzalez: When I read this post by Kate, I was reminded of a post I wrote back in 2009 ago titled, “In Search of a Smart 3PL Request-for-Proposal.” Here is an excerpt:

I was speaking with a sales executive at a leading logistics service provider (3PL) earlier this week and I asked him a simple question: “Do you have an example of a good RFP from a customer or prospect that you believe asks all the right questions a prospective customer should ask?”

Boy, did I hit a hot button with that question!

The executive answered me (and expressed his frustration) by sharing two recent examples. In one case, the customer hired a blue-chip consulting firm to help them with the 3PL evaluation and selection process. It was clear, however, that the consultant in charge of the project was relatively clueless about the logistics industry. His questions were very basic, and the 3PL often had to define and explain common terms to the consultant that he should have been familiar with already. For example, the consultant didn’t know what TOFC stood for, even though a significant portion of his client’s transportation moves are trailer-on-flatcar.

The second example was even more outrageous. A company actually performed a reverse auction (using Ariba) to select a 3PL. Now, this was not your typical “transportation procurement” engagement to secure trucking capacity. This company was selecting a 3PL to manage its nine-figure transportation spend and daily operations. In other words, this company was turning over several hundred million dollars of transportation management responsibility to the lowest bidder!

Is this what selecting a logistics service provider has come down to?

Unfortunately, I still hear similar horror stories today. So, I wholeheartedly agree with Kate: it’s time to revise the way companies think about and handle the RFP, especially when it comes to selecting a strategic 3PL partner.

If you were writing a Request for Partner document, what information would it include — and how would it differ from a Request for Proposal? Post a comment and share your thoughts!

Comments

  1. “So why not update and flip the old-school, transaction-based Request for Proposals into something much more meaningful and useful—a blueprint for a partnership?”

    Yes, why not? It is great to pose a question like this, but what would this look like in a practical sense? I don’t get the impression that the author really knows. Look, nobody likes the process of answering RFPs. However, for a product as complex as enterprise software – touching multiple departments as it does (Transportation, IT, Sales, Procurement) – it is a necessary evil to have to answer the concerns of this varied array of stakeholders. This is, in itself, a burdensome task.

    What compounds the misery in my opinion, is the fact that these lengthy RFPs seem to lack cohesion. It is as if each functional group of stakeholders posits their questions in a vacuum and without any consideration of how their challenges, needs and questions interact with the other aforementioned groups.

    Perhaps the answer lies in the development of an RFP as a joint exercise within the issuing organization so they can more properly align their needs, concerns, etc. so that respondents can craft answers that actually speak to these challenges instead of being forced to cobble together volumes of arcane answers that are often apropos of nothing.

    Just my two cents as an RFx jockey.

Leave a Reply