The RFI, RFP and RFQ drill works well if your team really knows the details of the business and technical requirements. Unfortunately, spec-writing teams tend to make three classic errors:
- They simultaneously under-specify (with too many silent assumptions and incomplete information) and over-specify (with too many product-specific stipulations).
- They're vague (or even silent) about acceptance criteria for features. A spec without a test or a clear go/no-go threshold is a wish-list, not a spec.
- They oscillate between the dweeby features, the business rules, and the overall goals.
Everything needs to be translated into pure system attributes and features. It's pretty rare for internal staff to really succeed with writing the specs on their own. Instead, bring in a consultant who will be excluded from the bidding to help you set CRM project priorities and write an iron-clad spec of what you'll need-and only what you really need.
Step 2: When Short-Listing, Pit CRM Vendors Against Each Other
As vendors respond to your RFI, RFP or RFQ, look for more than just good answers. Does the CRM vendor proposal include rules of engagement for the project? If there's no guidance and dialog during the bidding process about the how the project will be managed, then friction is likely to develop later on. There are just too many places for mismatched assumptions.
At some point, you'll eliminate some vendors. Identify which of the disqualified ones you communicate best with, and then engage them in a short but critical task. Make it clear that they aren't in the running, pay them for their time and ask them to do two final tasks:
- Apply Value Engineering to the other vendors' proposed approaches. By ruthlessly applying the 80/20 rule, there is always a way to satisfy the core business requirement with a smaller level of effort.
- Sharp-shoot the contract, looking for areas where you could get severely hit by ECOs and loopholes.
During your short-listing cycle, modify your specs and contract to avoid the problems that the out-of-the-running vendor has spotted. Even if you pay the vendor $1,000 an hour for this task, you'll still save a bundle overall.