The Fourth Step – Source Your Proposal and Schedule Vendor Demonstrations
Let’s continue our journey through the process of selecting your next software solution. Today we’ll show you how to narrow down the list of potential vendors using the information they provided in the request for proposal (RFP) document. We’ll also talk about the importance of using a Software Selection Management Tool to compare and analyze the vendors and finally we’ll talk about software demonstrations from the top contenders for your business.
So far we have discussed the contracts you need to sign with any consultant you hire to assist in the project, how to initiate the project, how to identify requirements and how to select a few vendors that seem to have a solution for all your mandatory needs. Since the list of vendors is blessed you’re ready to enter the RFP phase with them.
RFP Creation and Distribution
The Request for Proposal (RFP) is written by the project team using the Roghnu RFP template as a guide. The template helps make sure you include all the information vendors need including the list of requirements gathered from stakeholders and any additional legal, organizational or geographical constraints.
The RFP asks vendors to describe the functions and features of their software and define, in detail, how they meet the mandatory requirements. Vendors are also asked to propose an implementation timeline, and of course, list the price of the solution and any installation or maintenance costs.
Clear guidelines are important. Vendor response areas are identified throughout the document so that vendors can easily use the RFP Response Guide and Checklist to create a complete response to the RFP. This same guide and checklist will also help the project team score the proposals they get from the vendors.
Once the RFP is ready for distribution, it is sent to the selected vendors. To keep the project moving we suggest giving vendors a maximum of three weeks to reply with their quote.
Collecting RFPs and Scoring Vendors
Since the software selection team will be receiving, reviewing and scoring seven or eight proposals, we strongly recommend using a Software Selection Management Tool. This tool helps you track each vendor’s information, their response to each requirement and any questions they have asked–as well as the price and implementation costs.
The main value of the selection tool is the ability to score and compare vendors on all criteria so you can easily identify the top three or four companies that will move to the next phase.
Business Acceptance of Front Runner Vendors
We hope you’ve noticed that our methodology revolves around communication, transparency and stakeholder involvement. Now it’s time to hold a meeting with your senior management team and key stakeholders and ask for approval of the vendor shortlist.
Present a summary – and allow access to the details – of everything you received from the vendors and how the proposals were scored. Make sure it is crystal clear to all how the three or four “front runner” vendors were selected.
Once the shortlist is approved and public amongst stakeholders, you are ready to start with the software demos.
Software Vendor Demonstrations
We are finally at the point where you get to see the software at work. It’s time to tell the vendors that you’re ready to see their solution. Some vendors choose to give in-person demos and some do it remotely using a web conference tool such as WebEx or GoToMeeting.
Though it would be great to have everybody present for the demos, that is not always realistic. At the very least, the key stakeholders and the members of the software selection team should attend.
Good software demonstrations show all the functions and features that meet the mandatory requirements, as well as showing other ‘nice-to-have’ features.
Vendor Proposal Revisions
In our experience, when people see a solution working they suddenly remember features they need the software to have. That’s the beauty of having a demo of a software before buying it. You should expect that at this point the list of requirements will change and, since you followed the process, then these changes are now listed in the Software Selection Management Tool.
Give the modified list of requirements to the three or four vendors still in the competition so they can adjust and resubmit their proposals.
Make sure you set and communicate the due date for the revised RFPs to be submitted. The project timeline is not affected as this requote was always part of the plan.
Vendor Scoring and Recommendations
Once the revised proposals have been submitted, and all the changes have been recorded in the Software Selection Management Tool, this is it, you are there. All information required for you to make an informed decision has been collected and documented.
Now the software selection team can use the Software Selection Management Tool to help make a recommendation based on vendor score, functionality, price, implementation timeline and cost, total cost of ownership and any other factors important to the organization.
Communicating Final Results
The obvious last step of this phase of the process is to communicate the results. Your company decision makers are about to choose the next ERP, using the information collected and carefully tabulated by the software selection team. This is when all the hours and effort put into this project pay off. The team has made their best effort to recommend a solution following a transparent and very objective methodology. The process and project plan has made life so much easier.
Contact us so we can help you prepare your RFP and tell you more about our Software Selection Management Tools. We have perfected this process and can be of great help to you.
Don’t miss the next installment of the series where we will discuss the last few steps to take before awarding the contract to the chosen vendor.