RFPs. Request for Proposal. Every CMS Systems Integrator (SI) loves to find great ones but unfortunately that’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Excellent CMS or WCM Systems Integrators are key to your CMS or WCM project success - but they’re wary of bidding on many RFPs. There are many reasons. First, I will share some some impartial views from CMSWatch.com. Thank you Real Story Group for explaining why CMS Systems Integrators don’t respond to RFPs (hence why companies could miss out on the best skill set). Following I will share some thoughts from the CMS Experts at Oshyn.
“Indeed, the most important by-product of better RFPs is better vendor responses, even if fewer in number. Responses become more targeted and relevant. This makes it easier to discriminate among them.” — Real Story Group
Good CMS Systems Integrators have good reason to be paranoid and not respond to CMS RFPs.
“Whether you like it or not, you may need to assure prospective bidders that the deal isn't "wired" for a competitor. Vendors have always been suspicious that they're getting led around by the nose when a decision has already been made — where the customer just goes through the motions, perhaps using a fake selection process to secure a better price from the chosen supplier.” — Real Story Group
Really good CMS Systems Integrators will shy away from RFP responses because their margins are lower than suspected.
“Although SIs receive the lion's share of global technology spend, they have narrower profit margins and are therefore careful about what they go after. Also, the best ones are busy. Often very busy. That has them looking for engagements that represent a good fit. A carefully-crafted RFP will let them know if they fall in your sweet spot. A loopy RFP will tempt them to perceive you as a "squirrelly" client — the kind they lose money on — so they decline to bid.” — Real Story Group
Thoughts from Oshyn’s CMS Experts
Separate Design, CMS Vendor Selection and System Integration
Consider the scope of your project and whether you would do well to hire a CMS consultant assist you with the CMS selection. Selecting and implementing the right solution to meet your specific needs can be an overwhelming task. Every CMS vendor has a biased view of their product and one goal in mind: to convince you that their solution is the best. Why? Because that’s the CMS vendor’s job. In the current economic recovery, some companies are looking to Open Source CMS to reduce costs. Open Source CMS can absolutely be the right CMS for some organizations - but not for all. Open Source CMS can have hidden costs and risk that are often overlooked.
Separating the CMS selection and the Systems Integrator (SI) selection will avoid right SI and wrong CMS or having a great CMS solution and a lousy integration partner.
If you want the best CMS or WCM you need to find CMS or WCM integrators that have great technology abilities as well as the abilities to understand your business needs and potential future needs. Ideally you should use your Systems Integrator to help you choose the right CMS or WCM. A good Systems Integrator knows the packages available and can help you see past the CMS/WCM vendor pitches to pick the one that will be suited to your company and deliver the best ROI. CMS Systems Integrators know the best systems for each business situation whether Open Source WCM or Commercial WCM. To achieve the best result you will most likely fare better by hiring a CMS consultant to integrate your project — and you will fare even better by engaging them to identify which CMS or WCM will deliver the best ROI.
Create Sitemap and Wireframes Before Issuing the RFP
Create your site map and wire frames before you issue a CMS RFP if you are able to. This greatly helps scope out the size of the work. If you don’t have the sitemap and wireframes ahead of time, then only accept bids for the design portion first and do a second RFP for the CMS integration. Alternatively, issue the RFP indicating that all work after the design phase will be paid for hourly, but a not to exceed estimate, with assumptions provided.
Prepare a Great RFP
“You get what you give: an RFP with a lot of boilerplate text will get responses with a lot of boilerplate text. Plus, you will get stuck in "qualification" queue until you show some signs of intelligent life.” Seth Gottlieb via CMS Wire.
A well crafted RFP will give the vendor the opportunity to explain how they can help you resolves issues or problems or meet goals. Your RFP is an opportunity to explain what you really need beyond a checklist of requirements.
First Prospect CMS Integrators and Target 5 Vendors to Receive the RFP
Send RFPs to a limited number of vendors which you should prospect well ahead of time. Don’t post CMS RFPs on your website or otherwise broadcast to the world so that you have a specific and small number of bids coming in. Tell each vendor how many companies the RFP is being distributed to and why you think they would be a great fit for your CMS RFP. This matters greatly because from the perspective of the vendor, it’s a waste of valuable resources to put in a bid when there will be dozens of responses.
Excellent CMS Systems Integrators are unlikely to bid on RFPs which have been mass distributed because of the high cost of carefully putting together a proposal. So mass distribution of RFPs may attract many responses — and many will be from the low quality pool.
Sending the RFP to a short list of vendors will translate into less work for the CMS evaluation committee. Before you send out an RFP call vendors and have a chat, you should quickly be able to get a sense of their expertise and whether they will work well with your organization. Ideally target no more than 5 firms and get a commitment from each that they will bid after obtaining some sense that they would be a good fit for the job.
Have a Bidder’s Conference or Invite Vendors for a Site Visit
Have a bidder’s conference or invite the vendors to do a site visit so that they can get a better sense of your level of commitment to the project and get a sense of your internal processes. This will help bidders deliver better proposals — plus they’re more likely to develop more thorough proposals because they will have a good idea of your level of seriousness.
Talk about how you make decisions. How many people are going to be involved? Will you take care of ensuring buy-in or you expect the vendor to follow-through on this? Will you guarantee that decisions will be made on a timely manner?
We Really Do Need to Know Your Budget. Really.
Disclose the budget range or your absolute the budget. We need it from our business perspective because we don’t want to waste our time and do lots of work for a project that is potentially 10x smaller then we envisioned. Without a budget, sometimes we just don’t bid unless an RFP has clear indicators that tell us it’s not a tiny project (Example: a solo-person-shop).
If the RFP does have clear indicators, we may still either bid as low as possible because it’s still all competitive, or figure-out how to give you the most for your money. If you have a preference for one or the other, disclose that also (i.e. “we are interested in knowing which vendor will propose the lowest price under $xxx that meets all the requirements” or “we are interested in knowing which vendor will provide the most value for a value and highest service level for no more than $xxx”) Quite frankly, RFPs without budgets require a lot of guessing on everyone’s part. If you are truly at a loss as to a reasonable budget for what you want — call up some reputable vendors and discuss your project and get some opinions. Perhaps we can help you separate your “Nice to Haves” versus your “Needs” if you have some budget constraints and breakdown your project into phases if possible.