Traditionally, the RFI/RFP process has served to help buyers at companies understand important feature/functionality differences between multiple vendor solutions, so that a large group of potential vendors can be whittled down to a short list. An RFP can also represent an initial round of vendor scoring. RFPs have even been used to disqualify vendors early on.
Despite the perceived benefits to the RFP process, there are a number of reasons to not go to all the effort of creating an CRM RFP. There are also better alternatives to the traditional CRM RFP process.
1. The CRM Vendor Short List is Already Available
Because CRM is a mature industry, there is a well-defined group of CRM vendors that most companies should consider for their short list.
2. Feature Parity
For the most part, the major CRM systems on the market have the same set of features. There are more nuanced differences among vendor solutions that may not be uncovered in a CRM RFP “line of questioning.”
3. RFPs Are Too High Level
RFPs often become a long list of generally worded “must have”, “should have” and “nice to have” feature requirements. For example, an RFP may include a question such as “Does your system support mobile access?”. A detailed CRM requirements exercise may find that mobile users only have a few, high priority use cases that need to be handled on a mobile device.
4. There Are Much Better Uses of Time and Money
Developing an RFP can be an expensive and time consuming exercise. Reviewing the responses can take even longer. I’ve heard of several companies recently that had over thirty respondents to their CRM RFPs. Why not allocate the time and money to documenting detailed business requirements and getting started on a functional specification?
5. A CRM RFP Does Not Help Define a Services Budget
An RFP generally provides vendors with very high level requirements, which, in turn, means that the vendors can only provide a high level estimate of services. A more refined estimate can only be provided after a detailed requirements exercise.
6. The Most Qualified Vendor(s) May Decline to Participate
Responding to an RFP can be an onerous process for a vendor. If there are other opportunities that a vendor’s sales team finds easier to pursue, the team may no-bid an RFP — when they may have been the most qualified vendor for the project.
7. RFP Responses May Not Resolve Differences of Opinion
One of the goals of an RFP may be to create consensus among departments with different preconceived notions of what the best CRM solution is. However, RFP responses may actually do little to resolve a lack of consensus.
8. RFPs Can Delay the Buying Process
If the RFP is removed as a step in the buying process, the process will likely move along faster. While defining detailed CRM requirements will likely take longer than formulating an RFP, the former will have the ironic effect of “slowing down the process in order to speed it up.”