RFP 101: Are You Asking the Right Questions?

business proposal 2The RFP (Request for Proposal) process can be arduous. One of the most common mistakes companies make “is not conducting a thorough gap analysis to the current program and utilizing it to clearly articulate the desired future state before releasing requirements to the market,” according to Staffing Industry Analysts.

Because it’s the beginning of a potentially long-term relationship with an organization, you want to leave no stone unturned and address every aspect of how the program operates. But how do you know the right questions to ask?

With a complicated technology solution like a vendor management system, the process can be even more difficult when multiple stakeholders and business objectives are involved.

Think of the RFP process like an overly thorough first date– you want to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before taking the next step. We’ve compiled an abbreviated list of the Essential Questions to Include in a Vendor Management System RFP  to help start the process.

You’ll want to make sure your RFP covers a breadth of topics and allows vendors to provide responses beyond basic “yes” and “no” answers. This is the vendor’s opportunity to impress, but it’s also a chance for you to find product differentiators as well as shortcomings. Here are some of the areas you’ll want to cover when sending an RFP to vendors:

  • Company background
  • Program structure
  • Product information
  • Services procurement
  • Product administration
  • Business intelligence and reporting
  • Technology
  • Implementation and integration
  • Customer support
  • Consultative services

Ask questions delving into the organization’s financial history, industry status and experience. Learn about the C-suite and their level of expertise – responses to these questions can either raise red flags or give the green light to one vendor over another.

Whether or not you have an MSP, you’ll want an overview of how the vendor works with the MSP community and self-managed customers to ensure they’re better equipped to work with your program. If you intend to use the MSP as the VMS provider, also ask about clients who have utilized multiple MSPs and to give specific examples of how these partnerships work.

Once you have a better grasp on the groundwork behind a company and how it works with the program office, your RFP should get into the “nuts and bolts” of a program. These include requisitions and distribution, the interview and hiring process, and finally, timesheets and invoicing. Program flexibility and the ability to configure the application to your business needs are issues that can be addressed during the RFP process. If you include open-ended questions that require the vendor to provide examples, you’ll likely get a better understanding of how the VMS can address complicated business issues such as three-way invoices and complex global rates.

Take a look at these sample questions to ask during the RFP process for a VMS. Do you have any questions you think should be added to this list? Are there any questions you wish you would have asked during your own VMS RFP process and didn’t? Share your feedback in the comments section below.

Arun Srinivasan

Arun Srinivasan
Arun Srinivasan is VP of marketing and strategy at Fieldglass. He can be reached at asrinivasan (at) fieldglass (dot) com.

Arun Srinivasan

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