Running an Intranet RFP – an agency view

We love working with new clients (as well as old ones!). Obviously, we like to win new business, but the most rewarding aspect is meeting new people and working on exciting projects. The Content Formula team love implementing new things. Making clients happy is what were all about!

Usually winning a new client means going through an RFP process. The Request for proposal is an established and structured way for organisations to invite, evaluate and ultimately select an agency or partner to work with it. For us, an RFP could be anything from an invitation to develop a three-year relationship to just providing a product, such as a turnkey intranet.

Usually the RFP is a natural step after the formulation of an intranet strategy and making an intranet business case. You may also have done some preliminary work to get the support of your senior management.

RFPs are a big commitment

RFPs are a way of life for digital agencies and software vendors, but they can also be extremely time-consuming for both the organisation and the agency involved.

Its a significant time and resource commitment for both parties. It can involve multiple individuals from both side. An RFP process can also last for months, delaying important projects.

From an agency point of view, we always carefully consider whether we want to respond to an RFP. We weigh up the time commitment, the value of the work and the likelihood of winning and the associated risk of not-winning.

This means that occasionally we will have to turn down the RFP invitation when:

  • We just do not have the resources to respond adequately, perhaps due to current work commitments
  • We dont feel were the best agency to respond to the RFP or dont believe we can help the potential client
  • The work on offer is not of high enough value because it is a small project, although if this is the precursor to a longer working relationship it may be attractive
  • ¬†Where the information requested appears to be over-the-top and it will take us too long to respond
  • Where the deadline for responses is unrealistic
  • When we assess we have very little chance of winning the work
  • Where were not sure the client knows what they want and they are perhaps using the RFP process to find out (intentionally or unintentionally) the information they need rather than select an agency. It is likely they could benefit from consultancy services.

Tips for running a successful RFP process

The danger for an organisation which ends up having agencies and vendors not responding to their RFP is that they will not be able to find the best partner for their needs. The team will also be wasting more time, resources and energy on the RFP process.

Here are a few tips which can lead to a better RFP process for everybody.

Find out more information first

Youll save a lot of time by properly researching your list of potential agencies to invite. A lot of information can be gleaned by looking agency websites, and by getting recommendations from your peers.

However, the best thing is to arrange a call first. Were delighted to speak to clients about their needs. If youre researching products, then arrange a demo. This can usually be done virtually and its a great way to get a feel for a product such as an intranet-in-a-box solution.

Some organisations run an RFI process (Request for Information) prior to an RFP where they ask for information from a wider set of agencies, although this can be a time-consuming process too.

Meet the agency before the RFP

The chemistry between the teams from agency and client is important and is often a key input for any final decision. Ideally meet an agency in person before you invite them to tender. Perhaps ask them to come in for an hour and present to you. We love to meet potential clients. Please get in touch!

Work on an intranet strategy before the RFP

It really helps to know what you want from your agency. The best way to achieve that is by working on an intranet strategy which is based on a thorough understanding of your users. The strategy will help you to craft a more accurate RFP document for your needs.

It can be very difficult for agencies to give you a proper response if you are too vague about your needs. Some potential great implementation partners for you may not feel they are able to help if youre at too early a stage in your thinking to adequately run the RFP process.

Ideally, you should also have business commitment for your project too. An RFP where the work then gets cancelled because there wasnt approval is very frustrating for all.

Dont run an RFP to validate a decision already made

If youve already more or less decided on a supplier and youre running an RFP because your procurement function says you must, or you need to validate your decision with senior stakeholders, then please try to consider alternatives to the RFP process.

Of course meet other agencies to make a decision, but when carrying out an RFP go into it with a genuinely open mind otherwise you are potentially wasting a lot of your own time and those within your organisation.

Project manage the RFP

RFPs need to be tightly run as projects to keep them on course. Ensure you:

  • Have realistic timelines allowing responses from agencies and proper internal consideration of the suppliers
  • Stick to deadlines
  • Dont invite too many suppliers, otherwise this may prove too difficult and time consuming for you and your colleagues
  • Assemble the right team dont leave out stakeholders who will insist on a retrospective review of any decision!
  • Are transparent about the process and keep everyone involved in the loop.
  • Stick to the rules. In some industries and the public sector, there may be strict rules to the RFP process which must be adhered to.
  • Let the agencies who didnt win know the reasons why this feedback is very useful.

Be prepared!

The key secret of running a successful RFP is to be properly prepared. Do your research on the agencies, derive your intranet strategy, and plan the process. Dont go into an RPF lightly, otherwise it can be overwhelming.

Follow some of the tips in this post and were convinced youll get more out of the process and find the right implementation partner for your organisation. Youll end up with a willing supplier and related product. Youre far more likely to develop a successful relationship, delivering great solutions with excellent results.

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