Wikis and RFPs

RFPs are often huge documents with literally thousands of questions that buyers inflicit on software vendors in order to assess the relative strengths and weakness of the product. They are a modern form of water torture to fill in, and some of them should be against the Geneva convention. 

I thought that will my current role I had managed to avoid the joys of RFP response, but somehow I found myself manoevered into working on one at the moment. Damn.

Actually it is one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while.  But there are at least 8 of us working on it at once.  It is a real pain emailing it around, as it is now too big for the mail system. Versioning is a nightmare. Invariably something is missing, like a screen print or a reference story, and it is a huge scramble to find it.

There must be a better way.

WIki to the rescue?  You give access to the team members, people could dump useful materials into the wiki, and then a gardener could craft it into a response, progress reports and so on could all be driven via the wiki, easy to allow management visibility, last minute pricing changes etc updates via RSS and so on.  It would also be an easy way to drive reuse.

I try and avoid working on RFPs, but if I find myseld dragged kicking and screaming to one I’ll insist that we respond via the wiki.

Surely it would  be even better to give the customer access to the wiki too. This would enable them to access your responses, ask questions, get clarification,  and you could easily provide access to much richer materials such as click through demos, reference videos and so on. It would help create transparency between the buyer, partner and software vendor.

Alternatively, the buyer could set up a wiki page, and ask the vendor to fill in responses there. This would help with comparing responses, and responding to vendor queries. It would also give the buyer a living document when starting the post evaluation project, rather than an expensive doorstop.

I’ve not done much research on this, but If anyone has any template ideas or guidelines, please let me know. Perhaps the wiki vendors already offer this sort of template, if not then perhaps they could? 

 

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10 thoughts on “Wikis and RFPs

  1. Great post. The only value of RFPs have are to cover the decision-makers butt in the case of disaster and line to pockets of the big SIs who get paid handsomely to drag the process along and have no incentive to make more efficient.

    Thomas, I would love to share with you what we are doing at Knowledge Infusion. I have referred to it as the “RFP buster” for the HCM community that is a fully configurable template that can determine your shortlist in a few hours versus a few months! Right now it is only available internally but we have talked about opening up the template to anyone.

    Nonetheless, wikis are a great way to facilitate the RFP process. Even something like Google Docs & Spreadsheets could provide significant value.

    Cheers.

  2. I’ve recently used wiki for co-created documents. Works much better than ‘tracked change’ documents created in Word and emailed around and does save time without losing versions. Daft as it may seem, Wetpaint does a pretty good job and it can be secured.

  3. Very timely subject! We are currently deploying a software package that is meant to handle RFPs and Proposals. What a nightmare! Both the software and RFPs…

    I’d love to see some wiki templates or examples. The one thing that’s critical to a successful RFP process though is canned answers. I’ve looked at a couple wiki packages and two things they lacked were decent WYSIWYG editors and the idea of date-based publication/archival. Maybe I’m just not looking at the right packages? And how does this transform to MS Word or Excel, with consistent style formatting? 99% of what we get is Word or Excel, and people expect it back in the same format, readable.

  4. Well, once you’ve gotten your RFP together, can I recommend posting it to the RFP Database as a good place to garner competitive bids for your project? And if I’ve misconstrued your post and you’re looking for projects to bid on, it’s a great place for that too!

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