The Request For Proposal is an important part of selecting an ERP system for your business. A good RFP will educate vendors on exactly what you are looking for, as well as the nature of your company and your specific goals.
Drafting and publishing the RFP comes fairly late in the selection process. The reason is simple. Until you have defined exactly what you want you’re in no position to write an effective RFP.
Your RFP should specify the format you want the responses in as well as the deadline. Include an outline of the response. It helps greatly in comparing proposals if they are all in similar formats.
A good RFP includes all the information vendors will need to tailor a bid to your specific needs. That includes not only the features you are looking for, and an estimate of how important each one is to your organization, but also general background on your company and what you hope to achieve with the ERP system.
Make this section as comprehensive and detailed as possible. This is no time to be coy about your company and your needs. You want to provide enough information that the vendor who reads the RFP will have a complete idea of your business, your people and your environment.
Your RFP should also include information on your key people, your customers and your present business environment.
You also need to ask the vendors for information on themselves and their company. How long have they been in business? How big are they? What is their financial position? Have they done implementations such as yours before? Who are their people who will be working on your project? Just as the vendor needs to get a clear picture of your business, you need to get a clear picture of the vendor.
Ask for a minimum of three references, preferably from companies in your industry, and then check those references carefully.
Also ask about the staffing for your project. Who will work on your implementation and what is their experience? What is the hourly rate for the people who will be employed on your project?
Ideally you’d like all the people on the project to be highly experienced at implementing projects like yours. In the real world you’ll probably get a mix of experience levels. Which is fine if you’re billed appropriately and there is at least one experienced person on the vendor’s team. Be sure to nail down who will work on your project and what their level of experience is.
The RFP should include an estimate of how many hours the project should take and an estimate of the amount of calendar time involved. These numbers are vital for projecting your budget for the implementation.
When you get responses to your RFP, study them carefully and compare them to each other and to your goals for the ERP implementation. Do the respondents seem to “get it” about what you’re looking for? Is their emphasis the same as yours when it comes to implementing the ERP system. Are their time and cost estimates in the ballpark?
These estimates need to be taken with a certain degree of skepticism since they are probably optimistic. This is natural, but it needs to be taken into account.
A good Request For Proposal represents a good deal of work on everyone’s part, but it’s important that it be prepared carefully and the responses studied even more carefully. This will help you make the cut to the final two or three vendors.
About the Author
Rick Cook has been involved with computers since the days of punched cards and magnetic drum memories. He has written hundreds of articles on computers and related technology as well as a series of fantasy novels full of bad computer jokes.