RIP, RFP: redefining procurement

Building traditional, highly detail­ed RFPs (Requests for Proposals) in isolation from service providers and a client’s wider business community wastes time, money and eff­ort.

Detailed, highly technical RFPs res­trict discussing the art of the possible with service providers, commercial and legal advisors and of course, the client’s business leaders.

Consequently, there is minimal definition of vision, strategy and objectives and little understanding of what success should look like.

The problem with traditional over-the-fence RFP processes is that they are confrontational and inhibit collaboration and business understanding. They stifle creativity and innovation and constrain delivery of transformational business benefits.

To achieve these benefits, clients must adopt a better way, one that focuses on business outcomes and enables service providers to gain a detailed understanding of the business strategy and objectives.

The approach must enable the best service provider to be selected (rather than the worst eliminated) and provide the client with the ability to realise sustainable business value within a mutually beneficial relationship.

The process employed in most outsourcing transactions drives clients to spend too much time documenting technical requirements and not enough understanding true business needs.

All too often, advisors supply boilerplate documents, technical descriptions and SLAs. While these standard documents might get clients to contract, they are unlikely to be the foundation for successful relationships or a deal that captures the best the market can provide.

Worryingly, the traditional, confrontational RFP approach is predicated on a perspective that service providers must never be in a position to win.

Clients and service providers are kept at arm’s length, which perpetuates a lack of trust.

The process also presumes that the advisor always knows best. Conversations with service providers, solicitors and business leaders to identify clever ideas or to seek their perspectives are ­extremely rare.

In addition to a lack of collaboration, traditional processes drive clients to document in unnecessarily high levels of detail and complexity exactly what the service provider must do.

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