Not all procurement processes are equal. That’s because buying a pallet of printing paper is a very different purchase from purchasing a new server network for your entire corporation. In general, the more stakeholders, technical challenges, and moving parts a purchase has, the more complicated it will be. There is an interplay with sourcing and change management, which is important to consider early in the process.
Here are some examples of complex process purchases that are either inherently or consequentially complex.
Challenging Purchase #1- Broad Swath of Stakeholders
Converting your company from Windows to OS X
In some respects, this purchase is not challenging. On the surface, it just means purchasing new hardware — and software, in all likelihood — and onboarding people and systems. Sure, there may need to be some workarounds at the IT level, but those departments make magic on a daily basis. The real issue you are going to encounter is the stakeholders’ reaction. Imagine you have a company with employees with ages ranging from 20 to 70. Some of them may have experienced plug-in switchboards as children while others were exposed to cell phones as toddlers. It stands to reason that the speed at which this diverse group of employees becomes comfortable and productive on the new systems is going to be extremely varied. That’s why it’s critical that change management garners as much attention, if not more, when a company is making a purchase that has this broad an impact. These details need to be discussed and agreed upon well in advance — before the RFP is even created.
Challenging Purchase #2 – Components up the Wazoo
Choose any large manufacturing project: an airplane, a ship, complex electronics — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that all of these projects have a daunting number of varied components for a procurement team to source. Let’s consider windmills. Sure, it’s easy to check the basics off our list. There are the raw materials, the product creation process, and making sure the grid is prepped for the windmill turbines. However, the procurement team also has to make sure there is adequate quality control and that shipping is not only priced competitively, but that it is also extremely timely and reliable. The number of physical components of the actual turbine can make any team’s collective head spin (unfortunately, this does not obviate the need for a windmill), but companies around the world pull this feat off because they understand the absolute necessity of applying rigorous processes to keep their supply chain both financially on target and on schedule.
Challenging Purchase #3 – High-Level Stakeholder Buy-In
Outsourced Redesign of the Coca-Cola Logo
To some creatives, using an RFP as a key part of the selection process in sourcing a creative agency is tantamount to heresy. And perhaps, at first blush, you can see their point. However, it’s worth noting that the odds are good you’ll encounter companies that take the opposite position. In fact, the general structure of an RFP can be a huge help for determining which agency would be right for the job. A significant challenge with this kind of purchase is the amount of interaction the procurement team inevitably has to do with key executives who need to be involved in this large of a decision, a challenge that is exacerbated by the highly subjective nature of much of the analysis. While the procurement team is ultimately responsible for orchestrating the selection process, the stakeholders are going to be charged with much of the assessment. This makes sense and is even a best practice, but it regularly causes a massive pileup of communication with email chains that prompt deep sighs of exasperation.
The lack of an efficient communication method, combined with highly-engaged stakeholders, invariably adds friction to the process. Begin adding up all of the time spent juggling emails, conference calls, and meetings and then multiply it by the pay rates of those who are involved in the process and another question emerges: “Given the effective cost of the selection process alone, are we better off engaging a creative agency or buying a resort for company retreats?”
They Are Possible, But They Are Painful
Teams around the world successfully execute these complex processes, but the majority of them feel the pain of legacy processes. RFP management software is designed to streamline the RFP process with features that directly target and mitigate the challenges that occur at each stage of the sourcing process.
For purchases that include broad swaths of stakeholders, a good RFP library management system has an initial planner. This collaboration tool ensures — in advance of issuing the RFP — that all of the stakeholders are heard and that requirements, and potential hurdles for adoption, are understood and documented. Stakeholders use the planner to create goals for their RFP so that the entire team is in alignment before the RFP is even created. This feature also helps procurement teams consider potential adoption hurdles as they work to source the best solution.
When dealing with commodity goods, the best price often wins. However, in more complex sourcing events, the variables contemplated in an effort to maximize value are more difficult to disentangle. Indeed, for complicated projects with lengthy lists of requirements, RFP software should have scoring analysis. Scoring analysis lets you see a breakdown of scores by section, subsection, and perhaps even by question. Strategic sourcers know the importance of evaluating total value and that simply tying selection to price is a leading cause of bad outcomes. By drilling down into the details of how suppliers were scored for different evaluation criteria, you will be able to better identify any potential hang-ups or key differentiators.
For stakeholder engagement, RFP management software should have features such as consolidation of information, chat, permissions and in-app Q&A. Email chains and attachments don’t scale. Imagine a data grenade exploding and leaving informational shrapnel scattered throughout your inbox. A good solution brings all of this data together and provides a structured way to access and evaluate it. Chat allows real-time discussions between fellow stakeholders as well as sourcing experts without the need to coordinate a meeting that disrupts everybody’s neatly planned day. Granular permissions allow the procurement team to assign specific roles in accordance with the RFP, e.g. if a certain person has the ability to create questions, approve the final RFP, participate in scoring and more. This allows stakeholders and subject matter experts to know exactly what they are expected to contribute to the sourcing event. In-app Q&A allows vendors, to pose questions that the right person on the purchasing side can address or delegate to a colleague. No more calls and emails… well, way fewer calls and emails!
Vendorful’s RFP management tool has developed all of the features listed above to streamline your RFP process. We created Vendorful because we too have suffered through high-touch sourcing events and know exactly how awful the enterprise purchasing process can be. We would be delighted to show you these features in action. Simply schedule a demo with us.