Streamlining-the-RFP-Process

Streamlining the RFP Process

While the global mobility RFP process is both time consuming and labor intensive, with proper preparation and a streamlined process, successful results can be had without the typical challenges...

Assess the task at hand

Assess your project's goals and objectives. Why is your organization conducting the RFP?  Is it to reduce costs, streamline processes, improve service, or simply to ensure that your current provider is providing best-in-class service at a reasonable and competitive price?  Who is driving the decision to go through this process? Senior Management? Human Resources? Procurement? What do you hope to achieve through this process? For which relocation services are you going out to bid?  What is your budget for this project?

When the answers to these questions are obtained, you can more easily proceed in the right direction. The answers will help you determine:

Internal stakeholders - It's critically important to have the buy-in and support of all stakeholders.

Which companies to research as potential suppliers - Not all providers will fit your needs.  Invite only those who have the basic capabilities to meet your requirements.  Do your research upfront!

Which questions to ask in the RFP- Make certain that the questions you ask will provide answers that will help you determine which company will best meet your overall objectives?

How much time and resources you will need to allocate to the project. Depending on the scope of services being requested, the number of invitees and the number of respondents, you will be better able to accurately identify the time and resources necessary to affect a successful RFP process.

How much to budget.  Be sure your budget includes travel costs if you're planning site visits, estimated time (salaries) for selection team to review, evaluate and select provider.  Also consider time taken away from other key initiatives for each of the team members.  It would be helpful for you to document the time involved for future RFP planning purposes.

Once you've gathered your internal stakeholders, take the time to meet with them as a group. During the initial meeting, state the objectives and educate the team on the current processes, procedures, costs and requirements. Include details like technologies used, reporting, billing, transferee/assignee satisfaction, client contact satisfaction and services provided.  Prioritize each of these things to be certain that all are in agreement before writing the RFP.

Also, before determining the questions to include in the RFP think about the future.  You've explained your current situation to your team.  Now, ask each of them for their input on future requirements.  Do you expect growth in a particular division?  Are you in a recruiting mode?  Do you anticipate more international assignments or domestic relocations?  Is your organization in an acquisition mode?  Be certain to take all of these things into consideration as you develop the RFP questions.

Who to invite?

It could be tempting to invite all relocation service providers to bid on your business. After all, how will you know if you're getting the best service for the best price if you don't give everyone an opportunity to bid?  Plus, you've been getting called on by the sales people from just about every firm.  Isn't it only fair to invite them to participate?  The answer is that it's only fair if they have a shot at the business.  Responding to an RFP is a great investment of time and resources.  If you have an indication that you will not select a particular provider, do not invite them to participate.

Do your homework BEFORE inviting companies to participate.  Based on the answers to some of the questions above, you should be able to narrow the choices somewhat.  For example, if it's important to your organization for your provider to have a single point of contact for your employees versus a call center, then some providers will not work for your company.  Likewise, if customized, flexible service is of paramount importance, it might not be wise to invite the largest players as flexibility becomes more difficult in larger organizations.

Finally, if the lowest price versus value is critical, there may be some providers who have been known to “buy the business” without regard to how service might suffer. Ask reputable, unbiased industry resources for their suggestions and recommendations. Visit the web sites of those you are considering. Talk to your colleagues in the industry to see who they use and ascertain the pros and cons of their experiences with those providers. And, most important, keep an open mind.  What worked in the past may not be best for your organization's future.

If after your initial research you are still not certain which companies to include, it may be wise to conduct a brief RFI (Request for Information).  The goal is to obtain basic information on the company to see if they will meet your initial requirements.

Writing the RFP Document

Your goals are set and have been communicated.  You've researched potential suppliers.  Now it's time to prepare the document.  Make sure you include the following:

Intent to Respond and Confidentiality Agreement.   The first step in the process should be to have the participants sign and return an “Intent to Respond” form and a “Confidentiality Agreement.”

Background on your organization.  Let your participants know about your company's mission and history.  Give them as much information as you can to give them a clear picture of your organization's culture.

Information on your current global mobility program.   Include information such as annual domestic volume and annual international assignment volume, including the mix of homeowners and renters. Let participants know what your current program costs are, including average home value, amended value versus appraised value rates, average length of international assignments and which locations are most popular.  It is most helpful for participants if you include copies of your current relocation and assignment management policies. Be sure to indicate the confidential nature of the policies and include a clause in your Confidentiality Agreement about restrictions on sharing these policies.

Clearly define the scope of work. In order for participants to accurately assess the revenue opportunity and projected expenses to deliver service, it's critically important that the scope of work be clearly defined. When participants are pricing their services, they need to understand the time investment of each of its staff members to accurately determine profitability. If the scope of work changes midstream, it could affect your costs.

Explain your selection criteria.   Give bidders an understanding of what's most important to you and your team when making this critical decision for a service partner. Also indicate the number of hard copies required or if electronic submission is sufficient.

Define the timeline for the RFP process.   Make it clear that all deadlines must be adhered to or participants may be disqualified for consideration.  When defining your timeline, be mindful of the time involved in preparing a response.  Your business is very valuable to potential providers and you want to give them enough time to submit a professional and comprehensive response.  The better the response, the more indicative of their capabilities, making your selection process go more smoothly.

Provide time for feedback and questions.  Once potential providers have had an opportunity to review your RFP, it is likely that they will have questions.  Either host a bidder conference call to respond to these questions, or submit answers to all questions to all bidders to ensure a level playing field. Be certain to indicate that contact with anyone other than your designated RFP contact person may cause disqualification.

Include questions that will provide insight. Revisit your goals and objectives for this RFP process.  Develop a list of questions that will solicit answers that will help you determine which provider can best help you achieve those objectives.  Remember that a long RFP does not constitute a good RFP.  Ask pointed questions that will provide insight to the responding organization's capabilities, philosophies, strengths and weaknesses.

Evaluating the Responses

Make sure that each stakeholder is included in the evaluation process. Develop an evaluation matrix to ensure that your selection is unbiased. The matrix should include your key selection criteria with assigned weights for each criterion. Often after reviewing each RFP response, the selection team has questions. When developing your timeline, be sure to allow time for follow up questions to suppliers to clarify any issues. When making your selection, focus on service providers who can deliver the best solution that stays within your budget. Be sure to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) for each provider. This includes not only the external supplier costs, but also your organization's infrastructure costs, internal staff costs (including training), and recurring costs of your relocation program. 

Narrowing the Choices

You've created your matrix prioritizing areas of importance and assigning a weight to each category. Typically companies will narrow the choice of providers who will be invited to present their capabilities in a face-to-face meeting. The number of companies invited will depend on the results of the matrix exercise. You may initially think that inviting three companies will suffice.  But, if the results of the matrix indicate that other companies are very close in the scoring, you may want to give them an opportunity to present as well.  Sometimes the face-to-face presentations can uncover some key benefits of using a particular organization.

When scheduling best and final presentations, allow at least 90 minutes. This will allow ample time for the presentation, some open dialogue and questions and answers.  The presentation stage is where you can determine if the provider is a good fit based on personalities.

They've already explained their capabilities in the RFP, but the interaction during the presentation will often give you a good feel as to whether or not you will be able to work with the people involved on a daily basis.  Rushing through the presentation due to time constraints may be disadvantageous to the selection team.  It also makes sense to give the presenters an agenda.  Let them know what you will be looking for so that your time is well spent.  For example, if you want to see a technology demonstration, let them know.  On the other side of the coin, let them know if the time allotted for the presentation is not appropriate for a technology demonstration. By letting the presenting organization know what you're looking for, it is more likely that you will come to a better conclusion at the end of the process.

Selecting the Best

By the time the best and final presentations have been completed, you should have come to the conclusion on which company will be best help you meet your global mobility objectives. Communicate the good news to that company with an explanation as to why they were chosen and a guideline on "next steps." Let the implementation begin!

Debriefing the Rest

One of the most difficult parts of the RFP process is communicating results to those who have not been awarded the business.  Realizing that a great deal of time and effort went into the preparation of the response, it is good business practice to provide a debrief session with each of the participants giving them honest feedback on their response and/or presentation. Don't sugarcoat it. Let them know the real reasons they were not chosen to give them an opportunity to improve in certain areas of their businesses.  

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