…Gordon Webb, UK Sales Manager for idibu – on why RFPs are an outdated method of evaluating SaaS solutions:
What are your thoughts on RFP’s for investigating SaaS solutions? Personally, I don’t think they have a place any more, with on-line demos, test accounts, free trials etc do companies really need to submit a list of tick box questions to the suppliers before considering them?
Before you think of changing any platform you need to know why you are thinking of changing it…the old adage “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” is as true today as it ever was, however if it is “broken” how do you fix it?
Well you could sit down and write up a list of requirements that any new platform must be able to do, but before you do this, ask yourself this: when was the last time you reviewed the market for platforms of this type? If the answer is more than a couple of years, then I can guarantee that the list of requirements you come up with will be nothing compared to what’s on the market now. Technology changes rapidly and unless you keep your hand in and know what’s changing and why then you are always going to be playing catch up with your competitors, so put that spreadsheet away!
In my opinion the best way to draw up a short list is to speak with your peer group and understand what’s working for them. What platform are they using? When was the last time they investigated the market? Would they recommend the platform they are using? What do they not like about it? Why did they change to it? What were they doing before putting it in and what’s changed since they implemented it?
Sure you could ask what the customer service is like and how much do they charge but at this stage you should not be thinking about these things and only trying to understand if you should speak to this supplier based on the feedback from your peers. Don’t just ask one either, ask around and if the same name keeps cropping up then there’s probably a very good reason for it. The most important question to ask your peers at this stage is “when was the last time they looked at alternatives and why they did or did not change”?
Once you have your shortlist speak to the suppliers directly (most of us are nice!) schedule an online demo, ask tons of questions, get them to record the session and send you a copy, get your colleagues involved, share the recordings with them and most importantly get the supplier to demonstrate to you how it would work and by that I mean how it would actually work for your business, if they can’t demonstrate it, it’s usually because it can’t do it!
It’s good to point out at this stage, don’t be blinkered by what you think is right, remember the reason you are changing this is because it’s currently broken and as the saying goes “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”! So be open minded about changing your processes, most SaaS solution providers are focused on their particular ‘line of business’ and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to help you achieve truly best practice.
Once you’ve done as many demos as you can handle, narrow it down to one or two, at this point you could ask for a trial or test account to have a play with, only do this if you are actually going to use it. Too many people ask for this after the first conversation and end up with lots of test accounts for systems they’ve never logged into before and may not have even seen a demo for. By the time you have a trial account you should’ve spoken with the supplier many times, had a least one in-depth demonstration and thrown hundreds of questions at them, so when you get your login credentials you should be familiar with the surroundings.
The great thing about a true SaaS offering is that you should be able to very quickly get a feel for whether it’s going to be right for your business or not. How easy is it to use? What’s the online help centre like (does it even have one)? Are the help centre articles easy to understand – can you impress your colleagues by saying “look what I’ve just done” by simply playing around?
Next time you’re thinking of changing something remember – step away from the tickbox exercise and go and speak to people who have been there before.
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