Improve Quality of Technical RFP's

Type of Service: 
Management Consulting
Country: 
Saudi Arabia
Industry: 
Health Care Services
Duration: 
6 months
Challenge: 

To improve the quality of requests for proposals (RFP's) issued by the client. This particular challenge is quite widespread in immature organizations: legal documentation is often ambiguous or even incorrect. With our client, this was especially problematic with their RFP's. In many cases, their RFP's suffered from multiple flaws, a few of which are shown below:

  • fundamental lack of understanding of their own business processes
  • undefined or poorly defined scope, sometimes on purpose in the mistaken belief that uncertainty would allow greater leverage over the vendor
  • no enforceable constraints on vendors to show reasonable progress
  • no enforceable constraints on vendor resources to be sufficiently qualified and available

The problem was compounded by the fact that for this client, RFP's were also the basis for signing contracts with vendors, with the RFP and the vendor proposal added as a part of the contract. This weak contractual basis for projects had led to losses of literally millions of riyals for the client. On more than one occasion, it was possible to trace project cost overruns and schedule slippage to poorly written sections in the original RFP.

Solution: 

Systematic Computer Science was asked to participate in the writing and review of a request for proposal for a new human resources system (HRS). The existing HRS was suffering from drastic lack of support from the vendor, and the HR department wanted to move to a stable, well-known product - as any organization of over 6000 employees should. We were asked to help both the HR and IT departments construct a sharp, accurate RFP that would be contractually solid and help improve the chances for project success. The client was keenly aware of the importance of the project, and assigned two of their very best staff members to develop the RFP.

Our first and most important recommendation to the client was to slow down, and instead of focusing on producing the RFP, to focus instead on understanding their business requirements, to document and analyze them. Historically, we had seen that leaving this step to the vendors had led to great problems for the client, so we suggested to do this step as part of the RFP. By doing this, we would also be virtually guaranteed to write an RFP that clearly defined the scope. This process took between 2-3 months, time that was uncomfortably long for the client since they were not used to the idea that quality time early saves lots of time and money later.

We also wrote or reviewed several sections in the RFP itself. These sections included constraints on items such as business processes, general technical requirements, security, interoperability, data migration, vendor organization and capabilities, vendor product, project plan and methodology, training, and maintenance and support. We paid great detail to include useful constraints to protect the rights of our client without unduly pressuring the vendor.

At the end of three months, the RFP was issued, over 900 pages long and generally acknowledged to be the strongest RFP produced by the client.

Benefits: 

This particular project was of significant benefit to the client. The request for proposal that Systematic Computer Science helped design for the HRS was considered by the submitting vendors to be very clear, even though it required a significant amount of work on the vendor's part to reply. The scope of work was plainly specified for the most part, and in the cases where it was not, the RFP had placed key questions and constraints on what the vendor could offer.

Having a clear RFP helped our client save potentially millions of riyals (some of the proposals were over 10 million riyals). The benefit cannot be measured simply within the immediate HRS project. The RFP we helped to produce was subsequently picked apart by other initiated projects that required RFP's. As time went on, it became clear that what Systematic Computer Science had helped do was lay down the skeleton for a model RFP that could be used by our client for multiple projects. At such an early stage in the lifecycle of a project, being able to reuse legal material is naturally going to be of tremendous benefit.