*Perk Up And Listen*
**By Kelly Purcell**
***I always get nostalgic this time of year. September is the back-to-school season. Everyone is eager to learn and meet up with friends that you didn’t see all summer. It’s exciting. Kids are so attentive this time of year. Everything is new and fresh.
****However, that energy soon fades. In a few months parents have to remind their kids to do their homework, get up on time, well you know the drill. I remember growing up, every time my Dad called me by using my middle name, Kelly Ann, I would perk up as I was usually being reminded to do something, or worse yet was in trouble. I knew it was time to listen. Today there’s so much noise in the mortgage industry I’m not sure anyone knows when to perk up and pay attention. But there’s one thing that surely gets everyone’s attention. Want to know what it is? Read on.
****RFP. One event that gets us technology providers perked up is the “Request For Proposal” that we receive from mortgage participants looking for technology solutions. The RFP is the voice of the customer. I don’t need to hear my father calling my full name to perk up and pay attention anymore, an RFP will do just fine.
****It is very encouraging these days to see the volume of RFPs come past our desk. The number of RFPs for eSignature and eVaulting technology has certainly increased in the last 12 to18 months. As a technology provider we get RFPs all the time. We review these documents very carefully as there is usually good business content to give us insight of upcoming trends and confirmation of current business requirements. Others however, are very poorly written and leave us thinking that the potential client may not understand or have a plan for the technology after all the RFP responses are delivered. It is sometimes very frustrating as real time and energy are put into these responses.
****So, what makes for a good RFP? To start with timelines for the various RFP phases for both parties- that being the issuer and the respondent. The first phase is of course receiving the RFP. The respondent (the “v” word–vendor) is in the euphoric stage- must kind of feel like those reality stars- they get the letter from the network to potentially “audition” for the show. A lot of time and effort is put forth in this phase from the respondent reviewing the document and making sure it is a good fit from a requirements standpoint with the vendor’s technology.
****Phase two is of course the “audition.” This is the most important phase. This is where as the vendor you are invited to present for anywhere from four to eight hours to hopefully a group of decision makers. This is where the issuer has a real responsibility to make this as even a playing field as possible for all the vendors and have the decision makers available for the presentations. There is much time and cost put into this phase from both parties and it must be treated as such. The more detail regarding use cases, demo expectations, agenda, etc. the more effective meeting for all parties.
****Assuming you made it to the onsite audition – the phase post audition is where the communication starts to breakdown. At this point there are a couple of scenarios that usually play out. You may be told quickly that you are not advancing- usually with little to no feedback. Why is that? Don’t vendors deserve the respect to at least be told that their functionality wasn’t quite there, or pricing was off or your team wasn’t the right fit? So if you are lucky enough to survive (or you think you have) – then often times it drops into some black hole not to be seen again for weeks or worse yet months. What is that cliché- hurry up and wait. It would be nice if the issuer of the RFP would be held accountable just as the respondent is held accountable throughout the process. I realize many times the RFP issuer is more confused after receiving all the information- and it takes more time than anticipated to weed through the information, but this is where communication is key. Just keep us informed and we won’t have to keep “bothering you” trying to get status. The management of the RFP process is usually a very good indicator as to future deployment and success of the project.
****A couple of other brief points. It always makes me a bit nervous when an RFP is seeking responses for both business models- outsourced and on-premise software. Most companies know well before the RFP which avenue they are seeking. So I have to ask myself- are they seeking both bids to justify the real model of choice- and if that is the case who’s time is being wasted, mine or my competitors? Then of course there is the RFP that doesn’t clearly specify the business model- well let’s just say those are a challenge.
****Overall, the business requirements are usually well thought out and articulated in most RFPs. Any workflow documentation that can be included is always helpful, though. We want to know the current volume and cycle time of the existing workflow. It’s important to know your current process if you hope to improve it.
****As vendors we welcome RFPs. We realize that the RFP is the voice of you-the client. We perk up when we get one and we pay attention to the details, so please share what you can and remember communication and respect are critical to any successful project.