Are you ready for an RFP?

16 March 2011
Over the past couple of years I’ve been working on the supplier side and I’m concerned about the quality of the RFIs and RFPs that are issued for production services. So I approached Tina Fegent, who heads the CIPS marketing and purchasing specialist knowledge group, to discuss the issues. My complaints are the following… There appears to be no real structure when issuing RFIs and RFPs, so there is duplication of effort on both sides. Deadlines are quite tight for the supplier but procurement don’t then follow their own schedule and fail to communicate why and what is happening next. Old RFPs are used, often with the wrong terminology or category definitions. There is a lack of understanding of volumes which means contracts can be awarded with the true value under or overstated. This can lead to a supplier being under-resourced or even having offered reduced margins for what appeared to be a large piece of business, souring the start of the relationship. And lastly, quality of debriefs is either non-existent or so poor as to give the supplier no constructive feedback. When I met the CIPS group they had some concerns of their own about the poor response from both creative and production agencies. The key message that came out of our discussion, however, was the lack of resource on both the client and supplier side. This will often delay the entire tender process resulting in an 18-month wait before the supplier generates any revenue. What company (client or supplier) in times of recession has 18 months to invest with the possibility of no return? Equally worrying is that there seems to be a lack of clarity over what the client is trying to achieve, which leads to confusion and further delays. So while there may be a clear process outlined, that process tends to buckle under the weight of questions or issues that can arise. There is no easy answer but it would be good to improve the situation and from my experience I’d suggest the following as a start:
  • Define what it is you are trying to achieve and engage all stakeholders.
  • Discuss your thoughts with a handful of suppliers that can help flesh out the issues you will face along the way.
  • Only when you are certain of the outcome you want to achieve, should you proceed with the tender.
  • Keep communicating with all parties, even if it’s just to say the project is delayed.
This all sounds logical and sensible but it seems that with the recession biting at all of our heels, the tendency has been to react, and perhaps badly, rather than spend some time asking the right questions.   Olga Budimir is a business consultant
Portsmouth / Bristol - Nationwide Travel
£40,000 - £45,000 per year
£39,511 + substantial pension and benefits
Ministry of Defence: Defence Infrastructure Organisation
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