Simplify Your Software Search: Tips for Writing the Perfect RFP (Request for Proposal)

EDITOR’S NOTE: ADD Systems is sponsor of this OilandEnergyOnline.com post.

 

A big purchase is looming. It’s an important one and is already keeping you up at night. Your software has reached end of life, and it’s time to address it. This is a huge, almost overwhelming task, but not if you get organized!

As with any big, detailed project, a clear process and structure make all the difference. What better way to organize a software search than with a well-written RFP? An RFP, Request for Proposal, is the solicitation of proposals from potential vendors and is used to determine which are best suited to meet your needs.

There’s no room to assume in this process. There are many companies in the same business as you, but you are all as unique as fingerprints. You have your own history, structure, processes, and wishes. That’s why an RFP document is the key to finding your best software solution.

How can you create the perfect RFP? Here are a few tips:

Hello! My name is…

How can a vendor sell you the right product if they don’t truly understand your company and its unique needs? It’s time to introduce yourself.

Who are you?

Your history defines you, so consider starting out with your story. It’s important that the vendor really understands you. Misunderstandings lead to misalignment, so tell your story as clearly and honestly as possible.

What are you doing now?

A software search is an excellent opportunity to take stock of where you are today. Take a thorough look at every area of your company. Maybe you are a diversified company with retail and wholesale fuel delivery, service, and convenience store divisions. Now is the time to document your processes and think about how your current software fits. Go to the source for this. Give each department its due with a comprehensive survey through the eyes of the people who live it.

What’s on your wish list?

Think about your future. Don’t be afraid to add questions about cutting-edge development. You want your immediate needs met, but you also want to partner with a company that is forward thinking and invests in R&D.

Keep it manageable!

To make the best decision you need to gather a great deal of information, but you also want that information to be manageable. Consider creating your RFP as an Excel document and have the vendors return it in the same format. Now you’ll have a myriad of creative ways to look at that data and, most importantly, do comparisons. Try to formulate many of your questions as yes/no answers with extra room for comments. Binary answers lend themselves to easy comparison. A simple column count of Y’s can tell you immediately who is ranking toward the top. Of course, be careful about asking questions that are too high-level, because you want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. You can ask as many questions as you want of potential suitors, so be specific. Get into the detail. You need to determine what they can do for you and how they are going to do it.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

Sure, it’s important that the vendors know you, but it’s equally important that you get to know them. It’s time to turn the tables.

Who are they?

Let the vendors introduce themselves. What is their history and how do they define their company? What markets do they serve? How long have they been in the industry? And what is the experience level of their people? Have them describe their company structure and see if they are prepared for the future with a succession plan.

Can they get the job done?

It’s great to have the perfect software package, but do they have the resources to support you with a custom implementation plan, on-site and remote training, and ongoing customer support? Ask about their training staff — how long have they been in the industry, and how many implementations have they done? The right implementers can mean the difference between a good installation and a great one.

Can they support you — the entire you?

Will they be there to support your entire solution, not only software, but hardware, networking and disaster recovery? Can they act as your IT department or be an extension of your existing one? This is your chance to determine if a vendor is capable of being your full-service solution provider.

Can you grow old together?

Ideally, you want this to be the last provider search you’ll ever do, so you need to think about the future and understand the vendors’ long-term strategic vision. Does their system allow you to grow, and is there a proven track record of expanding with the industry? What resources do they have, and can they meet delivery dates or are they overextended? Have they and will they integrate with your other key partners? This is an opportunity to ensure that they align with your strategic goals.

Are their customers happy?

Seek testimonials from companies you trust, not just those highlighted on the vendor’s website. Ask about setting up an on-site visit. Even ask about what trade shows they will be attending. This is a great chance to talk to a handful of customers all in one place.

Are they a partner?

When problems arise, how do they respond? Are they a provider or a partner in your success? Do they invite your feedback and seek your input when making development decisions? And what kind of access do you have to senior staff? You want a supplier who values you.

 

With all this information you are well on your way to making the best decision for your company. Knowing who has the skills and products to meet your needs is the first step. Having confidence in their ability to deliver today and in the future will seal the deal.

 

To learn more about ADD Systems, please visit www.addsys.com.

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