I don’t know who dislikes RFPs more: vendors who have to answer them or customers who have to create them and then read all the responses. There aren’t too many things that waste more time than RFPs.
I understand the original premise of these: they were a way for a customer to define their needs and do an impartial analysis of which vendor best fits the requirements. This is no longer necessary. With websites, on-line or print product reviews, tradeshows, peer groups, Webex sessions, and product trials, it’s relatively easy to find out what solutions best meets your needs. Because of this, RFPs have morphed into one of three things:
- Documents completely tilted towards a particular vendor’s technology produced to suit a requirement that the company has to consider multiple technologies before making a decision.
- Documents outlining a wish list of technology that no vendor currently has. This puts vendors in the uncomfortable position of having to over-commit heavily on future technology just to have a chance at winning the deal. Nothing is more responsible for half implemented, unreliable features than over commitments.
- Huge documents filled with more legalize than actual technology/proposal questions. I like to call these “Big Telco RFPs.” These goliaths read more like a contract for the merger of two fortune 500 companies and usually require 10 or more people, including a couple of lawyers to get done. It’s due a week from Friday, by the way.
Why bother? A system where people simply research and choose a solution that best matches their needs would be much better. They would make the call on what to use, justify their decision to management, and be held responsible for the success of the solution. Many companies do this today and it’s far more efficient for everyone involved. RFPs should really become a thing of the past.