When faced with a challenge and the need for a new solution, retailers typically will undertake a vendor selection effort to best evaluate potential marketplace solutions. Oftentimes, retailers will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) in an attempt to objectively analyze these solutions.
But how do you know what to put in that RFP? How do you evaluate and “score” the vendors on criteria that go beyond functional requirements? How do you ensure that on-site vendor demos aren’t an exercise in futility for the business and IT resources who set aside time to attend and evaluate?
Here are just a few RFP best practices that we have obtained throughout our extensive history of managing Vendor Selection projects for retailers.
(1) Focus on what makes you unique. Every retailer has a set of requirements that separates them from the majority of the industry. Be it a unique set of products attributes, an exhaustive set of promotions, the need for self-service, the use of private label credit cards, etc. - these are the items where you really want to focus your evaluation around. When you are looking at a list of the leading retail technology solution providers, you will find that they mostly handle the vast majority of core functionality at par with one another. Therefore, it’s those Differentiating Unique Requirements (DURs) that should make or break the scoring of the vendors.
(2) Don’t forget the non-functional requirements. Even in today’s world of cloud-based solutions where they are handling support, you should still seek an understanding of how these vendors are architecting their solutions and what their approach is for integrating to your upstream/downstream enterprise systems. What technologies are they using behind the scenes? Are they scalable? Is the solution extendable and extensible? These are critical areas where you must spend time evaluating as well.
(3) Have a timeline planned out ahead of time and be sure to maintain discipline. Vendors will want to delay, ask for extensions, push for more and more conference calls, and ultimately delay your overall timelines. It’s imperative that you push them to maintain the original dates or your selection project will never complete.
(4) For on-site demos, don’t allow vendors to come in and deliver on their own agenda. Take the time to craft unique demo scripts that represent some of your most common (and unique!) use cases, and ask the vendors to demonstrate these scenarios live within their application. And be sure to leave time for conversation around the non-functional areas as well
(5) Don’t minimize vendor culture and fit. These are tougher areas to score, but are ultimately equally important when evaluating potential partners. After all, you will be spending time and effort working alongside this organization for years to come, so be sure you are aligned with them from a cultural perspective.
Finding and selecting the right technology partner is difficult enough, so be sure to keep some of these RFP best practices in mind.
These are principles that we ensure guide all of our vendor selection initiatives, and we would love the opportunity to delve deeper into our proven selection methodology.
Click below and let us know what sort of RFP projects you have coming up.