Updating the RFP model

How can firms capture more of the innovation that tends to come with new cloud, mobile and analytics implementations? Some IT service consultants have started to talk about expanding the traditional Request for Proposal approach to soliciting bids from integrators and outsourcers. In The RFP Will Never Be the Same, outsourcing consultant Information Services Group explains the ‘Request for Solution’ model by which it is starting to help firms seek more creative solutions from potential outsourcing partners.

ISG describes the RFS as “a collaborative process characterized by broad criteria, assessment of multiple options and open-ended dialogue rather than specific checklists that require specific answers”. The process is recommended for innately transformative projects only, with the enterprise engaging an advisor, so as to be taken “seriously”, and gathering substantial data up front, to better describe the current environment and objectives desired.

On one level, it is not new for an RFP to leave room for different types of solution—or to thus open the process to abuse, with an enterprise garnering free consulting through the variety and detail of responses. On the other hand, these new technologies and transformative projects should, by definition, be transformative. Finding the right, creative approach is critical to the value of the eventual execution.

 As ISG points out, such a process can broaden the type and number of providers equipped and willing to respond. Given that it requires a greater level of trust on the part of both parties, however, reputation and relationships may become more important than ever for such deals. And, insofar as the process is designed to show firms how to change their business—and make no mistake about it, it is the business, as well as the technology to be changed—a paid consulting component may be appropriate. This contribution can come from a consultant up front and/or from multiple bidding firms. Indeed, this is in part why it is becoming more important for an outsourcing partner to have that type of consulting capability and perspective on an ongoing basis.

Still, point taken. Cloud, mobile and big data are driving too much change for narrowly prescribed proposals and, in many cases, contracts. Else too much of the transformative benefit will be left on the negotiating table.