Today’s HR Technology (And many, many other industries) world looks completely different than it did even a few short years ago. The rapid advancement of technology and innovation has created solutions to business problems and objectives that didn’t even exist five years ago. Unlike in years past with legacy or systems built on older technology, today’s solutions are nimble, flexible and responsive to business needs. In the new market of HR Technology, I’ve seen vendors respond to a technical/product needs in a few days – something not even technically possible for old style technology.
Yet, when trying to replace our current solutions or solve process issues, we still want to revert back to an evaluation process that was developed when what was available was very limited and it was pretty cut and dry who could or couldn’t do something. When the “features and benefits matrix” actually made a difference and user experience had little involvement in decision making.
After years of working with both vendors and corporate clients, its no secret that I am not a fan of the RFP process – especially for small to midmarket and small enterprise (under 15,000 employees) and here are my top three reasons why:
- Everyone Does the Same Thing (At least on paper). Send out RFP’s and suddenly people get really creative at what ad-hoc reporting means or advanced search capabilities or social integration. If you really twist your mind and jump through hoops could you “technically” do it? Sure. Sometimes, I guess. Although, there has been more than once where I’m embarrassed for a vendor when they actually show their “version” of the RFP requirement. It doesn’t matter IF they can do it, it matters HOW they do it.
- Vendors Don’t Like Them. RFP’s are risky – they take up A LOT of time, go out to A LOT of vendors, typically are so generic that there is no way to really differentiate and often provide limited information about the company to really provide you with the solution that actually makes sense for your organization. So instead, they just choose not to respond – Especially from small to mid-market companies. On a corporate side, you assume they didn’t respond because they couldn’t meet the needs of the RFP. On the vendor side, they assume they just saved time working with the clients that appreciate a consultative approach.
- Buyers aren’t Experts. When a corporate procurement team or hr department pulls a sample RFP off a website they are often creating requirements around what DID exist (often years ago), not what DOES exist in today’s market. It sounds silly, but its true. If you have a list of everything you want and only make decisions based on that – you may miss what you actually NEED for your business process purely because you didn’t even know it existed. Its not the buyers fault, they have real jobs to do other than looking at software all day. Ask anyone that has/is an analyst and you will know that its almost impossible to keep up with it even if you only specialize in a subsegment of HR (Like ERP, HRIS, Performance, Recruiting, etc).
So what should you do? Research companies that are out there. Don’t just look at the companies that are making the most marketing noise – just because they have the most money, doesn’t mean its the best product for you. Get referrals and feedback from colleagues, the internet and industry experts. Attend an event like HR Technology Conference or HR Tech Europe depending on where you live and walk the expo floor, have conversations with people who are passionate about this. Hire someone who gets that the RFP isn’t always the right way and has relationships and knows the market and can make suggestions. Then call and have conversations with 4-5 of the vendors you identify. If they seem to just be focused on the sale, move on. If they are trying to understand your needs and solve a problem, investigate further.
Are there instances where an RFP could be a good idea? Sure. Are they the norm? Not anymore.
PS. I have discounts available for both HR Technology events – Send me a message and I’ll give you the code for the best discount available.