IT RFPs have 'barely evolved in decades'

5 July 2017

Today’s IT request for proposals (RFPs) are overly IT-focused and neglect wider business goals, according to research.

KCOM, a communications and IT services provider, has carried out a detailed examination of RFPs it received over the past 18 months for strategic IT projects. It found that just 14% of RFPs showed any evidence of collaboration between IT and the wider organisation.

Few RFPs allowed suppliers to suggest innovative solutions to a business’s challenges and even fewer permitted forming a strategic partnership.

“It appears that just 18% of enterprise IT RFPs are truly seeking innovation,” said the report.

Only 30% of RFPs for consumer-focused projects required suppliers to explain how the IT project would improve the experience for customers. The remainder focused exclusively on IT metrics.

Three quarter (75%) of RFPs had “inherently future-looking objectives” but more than half failed to ask vendors how they would ensure their proposal was “future-proof”.

A fifth (21%) of RFPs were for projects to update restrictive, non-compliant or even failing legacy technology, but only half of these sought innovation from potential suppliers and only 17% requested a future-proof proposition.

Only 39% allowed or encouraged suppliers to be innovative. In others “the idea of innovation was conspicuous by its absence”, said the report. Instead, these RFPs detailed the exact technology framework that suppliers needed to provide.
“Somewhere between the internal discussion and the process of seeking potential suppliers, the drive for creativity had been lost,” the study added.

And more than half of these who did encourage suppliers to be innovative prevented the development of a strategic partnership by restricting or formalising client access, or by constraining supplier involvement in the project to purely tactical activity.

“When we talk to CIOs and others in similar roles, it’s obvious that modern strategic thinking is there,” said Stephen Long, EVP at KCOM.

“But it is constrained by antiquated processes such as the RFP, which has barely evolved in decades.”

He said that business strategies that focus on collaboration, “customer-centricity” and future proofing are “remarkably rare in a typical RFP”.

A successful RFP blended pragmatic creativity with a firm focus on the enterprise’s end customer and core business, promoted collaboration throughout the wider organisation and with strategic suppliers, and established a platform for the future.

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