I wanted to take a look at how far we've come since a column Iwrote for GlobeStreet.com in October, 2004. In that article,titled, "Looking For a Few Good RFPs", I said that a good RFP musthave a clearly defined scope of services, roll out under arealistic schedule, should not be procurement-led, must allow anapples to apples comparison, and should narrow the list to,ideally, two providers.

I'm not surprised to be here four years later and the issuesthat loomed large back then still cause angst today. So whathappened, or didn't happen, since 2004? Almost all of the San Diegoclass attendees, representing both service providers and end users,agreed that the RFP process is still a nightmare. From the serviceprovider standpoint, I think the problem lies in trying to use anRFP response as a surrogate to a relationship. Think of it thisway, if you have just one chance to impress someone, you can goabout it two ways: you can be confident, professional, and attunedto the other individual, or you can be loud, flashy and all aboutyourself. End users participating in our class resoundingly saidservice providers are still focused heavily on themselves.

And what of the RFPs themselves? The ones I've seen lately varygreatly in terms of quality and quantity. I've seenwell-constructed proposals that are no more than 50 pages and coverall the issues. I've also seen proposals that go on for 200 pagesand get so detailed about process that no one can decipher what'sbeing communicated. I call this 200-page RFP approach "the thudfactor" because it appears that the service provider is counting onwinning business by sheer mass. Of course, the thud factor of anRFP does not necessarily mean the provider is qualified. It mightmean they simply don't know the answer to the questions that wereasked. The answer is in there, but now it's the prospectiveclient's job to find out exactly where.The advice to serviceproviders from end user CoreNet class attendees? Don't rely on thethud factor. Simply, in as few words as possible, respond to thequestions to the best of your ability. And, as CoreNet instructors,if we did our job well, we've helped a few more end users know whatquestions to ask.

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