Exploring Outsourcing: The Request for Proposal
by Kurt Jensen
In the first article of this series, we explored the basics of
outsourcing, defined in simple terms as paying someone else to do a job.
This article will focus on one method of exploring outsourcing: the
Request for Proposal (RFP).
The RFP is a document that details the job and asks vendors to submit a
proposal describing how they will do it and for how much. It sounds simple
enough; however creating an RFP that accurately describes the job,
outlines service levels and produces meaningful proposals can be
challenging. Providing too much 'grey area' in the RFP can result in
responses that take a disproportionate amount of time to analyze, while
being too restrictive may result in missing qualitative features, new
discoveries or may even cause the vendor to disqualify themselves
prematurely. Keep in mind receiving an RFP is an opportunity for the
recipient and can take considerable resources to address. The creation of
the RFP is a critical component, which if done properly, will serve all
parties effectively and efficiently.
The RFP must contain well organized sections designed to address the
structure and content of the response.
Executive Summary – Describes the central reason for the RFP,
contents and contains information about the requester. This is the 'first
impression' page or section.
Governing Rules – Contains rules of engagement, legal language and
any special provisions which apply to specific circumstances.
Scope of Work – Outlines what the job entails and describes how the
work is generated. This section contains details unique to the work,
vendor/requester responsibilities and contracted expectations/performance
levels. Needless to say, this is an extremely important section!
Proposal Format – Provides guidance regarding content and structure
of the respondent's proposal. Balancing grey area against restrictions
plays a significant role in this section.
Proposal Submission – Informs the recipient of the schedule, where
to send submissions and other post response rules.
Appendices – These sections contain virtually anything deemed to be
beneficial to the recipient, such as forecasts, nature of inquiries or a
Creating an RFP takes considerable time and requires considerable thought.
Being crisp, clear and concise will not only result in a better RFP, but
it will also help you identify issues that may need more thought
internally. After all, if you cannot describe it easily, how can you
expect an outsourcer to do it?
Whether you decide to write an RFP in-house or engage assistance, managing
the potential flood of information contained in responses begins with the
RFP creation process. In the next article we will wade through that flood
and get to the next step, "Selecting Oral Interview Candidates."
If you are thinking about outsourcing, we can help you manage the process
(while you focus on your business!) - feel free to
View previous articles in this series
Managing the Enterprise Customer
Relationship(Part 7): It's Not What You Say But How you Say It
by Craig Bailey and
Words are very powerful communication tools, critical for conveying ideas.
The words you choose, the order you use them in, and the method you use to
convey them are all important considerations in making sure you best
communicate your message.
Consider the phrase "awful pretty." Now, let's take those same words in a
different order: "pretty awful." While this may be a crude example, it
demonstrates that the words we use and the order in which we use these
words can have a dramatic impact on the message received. Now let's apply
this to our topic of "Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship."
If you are in charge of managing an enterprise customer relationship, you
certainly have had the unpleasant opportunity to deliver less than stellar
news to a client. Perhaps it was a broken promise or a missed performance
level. Your ability to properly communicate this information to the
customer will determine if you maintain credibility with the client or
As an example, let's say that you are the project manager for a critical
initiative that you are driving for the client and a critical milestone is
in jeopardy. Knowing that "bad news does not get better with age" you want
to alert the client. Your approach to providing this update will literally
determine if you are an amateur or a professional at managing customer
perceptions and expectations.
The amateur's approach is that of calling the customer and stating in a
downtrodden voice: "We have just hit a major obstacle, which puts the
launch in jeopardy. I just wanted to let you know." Upon getting this off
of his or her chest, the "amateur" lets out an audible sigh of relief.
A professional would take a different approach. With a positive/confident
tone of voice, he or she would inform the customer, also in a timely
manner: "We have hit a speed-bump. Here is how we got here. We have the
following options…It is my every intention to ensure that there is no
delay to launch, or that any impact is minimized. I will report back in 24
hours on a suggested course of action and impact to the plan (if any)."
Some might say "why not wait until you had all the information before you
alerted the customer?" Consider that you are working with a multi-faceted
and complex enterprise customer. If you don't alert the customer in a
timely manner, that naysayer (customer employee) on the project will be
happy to do it for you. And, they may not share the news in the context
within which you would deliver it. If you recall from prior editions of
this series, you own the entire customer experience. As such, you are in a
better position to control customer perception during these critical
moments by providing the advance notice, within context, and promise
additional details in a specific period of time.
Another important consideration for communicating, both internally and
externally, is the delivery mechanism. Some subtleties (tone, humor) can
be lost in written communication. While your words might be clear, your
tone can easily be misinterpreted by someone reading your message in a
different mindset, particularly if that person doesn't know you very well.
What you intended as humor might be misconstrued as anger. Even what you
think is a simple detailing of facts might be seen by others as trying to
place blame. When preparing communication, a professional will consider
not only what words to use, but also how best to convey them.
Stay tuned for a future series on "Amateur or Professional" that explores
additional scenarios and how they can best be handled to demonstrate
professionalism in managing customer interactions and relationships.
View previous articles in this series
Exploring Outsourcing: The
Request for Proposal
Managing the Enterprise
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Interested in what it takes to be a successful and "professional" project
manager or consultant? Download Craig Bailey's presentation
Positive Power Influence given at
PMI's Mass Bay Chapter Career Development Day on 5/22/2004.
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