Filed under: Content management
When I posted my recent article on Time needed to select a CMS to the CM Pros mailing list, it generated a lot of discussion. This included a number of people who questioned whether organisations should be going through a RFP/tender process at all. I thought I would post my thoughts here, as well as replying on the list…
The dislike of RFPs not surprising. For my own part, I have seen more pointless, wasteful, poorly constructed, and poorly thought-out RFPs to fill an entire life!
The gut reaction is therefore unsurprisingly to reject them entirely. I’m going to argue against this.
There are a lot of products in the marketplace, 140+ in Australia alone with an estimate 1,000 globally. I’ve often said that these are only 30% similar and 70% entirely different in how they operate. (Even if all the marketing brochures read the same.)
It’s a complex marketplace, and it is far from easy for organisations to be confident they are selecting the right product. Where there is a lack of experience or clarity around the needs, this is even worse.
I like a lightweight RFP/tender process for helping resolve these issues, even where it isn’t formally required.
It does several things:
- it ensures that requirements are thought through and documented
- the scope of the project is clarified and communicated
- vendors are asked to “put themselves on the line” in their response
- it helps organisations to make informed decisions in cutting down the list to a final few
- it ensures that organisations spend some time thinking and learning about products (and their own requirements!)
- it gives internal stakeholders an opportunity to be involved
- it builds confidence in the final outcome
We do a lot of work helping organisations select a CMS, in both the public and private sectors. We help organisations write good requirements, and provide an initial list of potential solutions (5-7 in our case). Written responses then quickly drop this to 3, for the vendor demonstrations.
In my personal experience, the greatest amount of time is lost when an informal or poorly-defined selection process is followed, leading to lots of wandering around and head-scratching.
I also don’t believe it is ethical for me as the “expert” to say “here, pick this!”. Life is simply too complex for that, and it ignores the many compromises that will need to be made. (We would also not be truly vendor neutral!)
Frankly, if we go through anything less than this, picking a product becomes no better than “rolling the dice and hoping your number comes up”.
So, death to the awful RFPs, and long live sensible, structured selection processes!