It was Tuesday morning and I was navigating the streets of Chicago to my office. The city appeared to
be moving at a slightly slower pace than usual. Maybe it was my foggy head or maybe everyone was up
far too late with their DVR and Game of Thrones. Dang you Tyrion Lannister! You bested me again. But, I will vanquish thee with a triple venti-blah-blah-blah, right now.
I settled into my desk with my over-sized, over-priced coffee, opened up my email, and was greeted
with the RFP I have been waiting for from one particular prospect. Armed with massive amounts of
caffeine, I figured now is as good a time as any to take a look.
As I make my initial review, the RFP was not atypical, by any means. Vendor information requirements, 2000 inane questions, all neatly packaged in an Excel spreadsheet. I decide the waters are fairly safe to dip my toe in and assess the temperature.
Maybe I was a little too comfortable. As soon as I start, I see the one question I know is going to set the
tone for the rest of the day.
Must: Be able to enter Customer Orders. Please choose from the following drop downs:
Standard Functionality. Custom Mod Required. Meets with Partner Product. Does Not Contain
I’m a re-seller of fully integrated ERP systems, offered by two of the largest companies in the world.
Why is this question in here? Moreover, I know 5 or 6 other people at this company, probably 10 times
smarter than I will ever be, actually reviewed this, and said, “Yeah. Good question. Better make sure
they take orders.”
If I look under the technology section, are you going to ask me if I am Y2K compliant?
How many thousands of dollars did this company spend to put this together? Is no one helping people
ask the questions they should actually ask? Apparently not. Because, as I review more of the RFP, I
realize I could answer almost every one of these questions with every one of their optional answers, at
the same time.
In reality, the answer is, “It depends.” Every one of the questions depends on several underlying factors completely unknown to me at this time.
Most of these questions are completely ineffective because they ask the question based on the user’s
current environment and limitations. Which is expected, that’s their universe. They don’t know my
environment. If you were in my environment, then you wouldn’t have those limitations and hence, may very well NOT need the functionality you are stating in big, bold letters, MUST.
My base level assumption is you are going through all the work and pain of ripping out your “corporate
spine” for an entirely new system and platform, not to get an exact replacement of what you currently
I’m not going to purport myself to be an expert. I don’t have 5 titles and 4 designations on my business
card. It just says: Bob Seltz
But, I also don’t think you have to be a genius to see our technology is moving at the speed of light, yet
our techniques for evaluating that technology are archaic and seem to be stuck at Y2K. No wonder I
paid $6.13 for this coffee. It’s starting to make me feel like the on-line equivalent of Frederick Nietzsche.
Now, I completely understand if you tell me this document is for CYA purposes only. Something to tell
your manager or board, “See, I did the due diligence needed.”
But, as a salesman, I can’t help but think, “Man, when are they going to hand me a document that will
actually help them?” And, do not take any of this to mean all RFPs are worthless. That is far from the
truth. But overall, I do think the process and criteria of most RFPs could be greatly improved.
Through this series of blogs, I solemnly promise to give you absolutely no concrete answers on how to
resolve any of this. But hopefully, you will be able to better arm yourself with appropriate questions for
your evaluation and receive an inside look as to “our” view of the evaluation process. Thereby, giving
you a better understanding of your own process and the criteria you should include.
Next Up – Functionality: “Are you Y2K compliant?”