Doing your laundry isn’t fun, it is a chore. The same can be said about the RFP process for your new ERP. I am not going to tell you there is a way to make it fun, but there are ways to make it faster and less onerous. Like laundry, an RFP can be a heavy load to undertake, but it can also be a light load. It may even be a quick few steps. It is important to do it right though, since you don’t want to start again with a rewash or RFP reissue.
A common question I am asked is, do I really need to do an RFP? In most cases the answer is Yes. The next question you should think about is, to what degree? Everyone needs to do laundry, but how clean and how much clothes vary. For a company that is small like a startup, a full-blown RFP is not really needed. The underlying business processes may be relatively simple. For an ERP, the company may be coming from something like Quickbooks or mostly manual spreadsheets. The scope and stakeholders are limited, so the RFP can be a couple pages highlighting the general functions needed. This is closer to an RFI. For laundry, this is like quickly fixing a shirt stain using a Tide pen or club soda. Get the job done and on with your day.
For midsize enterprises, an RFP is beneficial even if all leaders do not see it as critical. There may be a strong preference for one system or another from the outset, but considering others is important. Midsize organizations are typically coming from a dedicated legacy ERP system for at least Financials. Multiple functions (Finance, HR, SCM, CRM) may be rolled together at this scale, like combining different types of clothes into a single light load of laundry. This creates more business processes, which in turn fuels requirements, the bones of the RFP. Documenting those requirements via RFP will ensure needs are met. But it doesn’t have to be a huge drawn out process. For midsize orgs, major leaders and key stakeholders may all fit in one meeting, like all clothes fitting in one wash/dry cycle. Decisions can be made with more speed. A few pages of RFP along with attached requirements can fit midsize needs. Before you know it, the RFP will be done and you’ll have a small fresh set of clothes.
Large/Global businesses along with Public-sector organizations require formal RFPs that take time. This is like a few heavy loads of laundry. The purpose of the chore here is to address the needs of many. It might be a diverse set of business units around the world, or a family of five. It may be more complex, with a separate RFP for Software and another RFP for Implementation services. Like splitting your laundry loads into whites and colors. Your laundry may take the better part of a full day and the RFP may take a few months. One way or the other, it has to get done, and done right. Lots of people are depending on this. A solid and complete RFP is needed like a family needs clean clothes for the week.
Laundry and RFPs are a chore, no doubt. But if you size it the right way, you will be ready, fresh and clean, for what lies ahead.
For research on RFP Best Practices, see my latest note Top 5 Best Practices for RFP Processes for Postmodern ERP available on Gartner.com with a subscription.