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RFx Lessons Learned

The wise management of procurement of products and services will include one or more of an RFP, RFQ, and RFI. This post will discuss Lessons Learned during these processes. The books and courses at your disposal offer great advice but don’t necessarily address every situation that may surface, thus this post, which will evolve and grow.

Q – if a response arrives early, days before the cutoff date, should I open it immediately and have the team get started on the evaluation?

A – Never! A member of the evaluation team upon reviewing the material, may begin speaking about it, and the information *could* find it’s way back to one of the other respondents. Never create the opportunity for what may appear to be unethical behaviour. In this area of business and awarding dollars, “Not only must one be pure, but one must appear to be pure”.

  1. Keep the response under lock and key until the closing date and time.
  2. At the closing date and time, with a witness, take the responses into a meeting room.
  3. Record in a log, who has responded, what time the responses have arrived.
  4. Open each response and log the contents (binders, CDs, other) in the log.
  5. Record what softcopy was provided by the Respondent and the media- CD, USB Key, email or secure access to a vendor server.
  6. The log sheet is to be signed by yourself and the witness.
  7. Save a copy of the log sheet into your Contract Management System.
  8. Save a softcopy of the responses in your Contract Management System.

Q – any special considerations when asking a respondent to provide a reference?

A – Require the following in the response: in the same industry as your company, similar size, similar corporate structure, in the same city (at least nearby – not halfway across the continent), and available to speak with you during the life of your RFx evaluation process.

But don’t stop there – inform the Respondents you plan to visit at least one of the references, for a meeting of approximately 2 hours to gather real life experiences with their product. And if a site visit is not possible, use a conference call as an alternative, providing the reference site with background information on your company. And no, the Respondent/Vendor does not sit in on the visit, or the call.

Q – noted that there are many books out there, as you said. However, they are not cheap. Do you have any recommendations to get a quick return?

A – There are many different subject areas that can be covered. A good general book, that covers negotiation ploys/tactics, and contrac wording is “The Contract Negotiation Handbook” by Stephen R. Guth. I will also recommend visiting his blog – the link is on the sidebar to the right of this screen.

Q – my counterpart on the other side of the negotiations regularly makes the comment “Noted” when I make a statement, observation, or counteroffer. Why does she do this?

A – this is an excellent tactic for saying something without committing to anything. One of the most dangerous things to say after the other party has spoken is “ok” – this denotes agreement with what was said, which may not be at all what you want to communicate! In casual conversation, think how many times we might say “ok” to mean “I hear you – continue”. If you wish to communicate the same meaning during negotiations, and you feel you just have to say something, say “Noted”, or “Noted – continue”. It is also a good word to communicate “I heard what you said, I recognize it, and I am writing it down.”

Q – my supervisor instructs me to have the Vendor sign the two copies of the contract first, and then have our internal approvers sign the contract. Is there really any difference?

A – There is risk in having the Vendor sign the contracts as the last step to closure. Unfortunately, the contracts might get misplaced or the urgency for final approval may wane. Having the Vendor sign first ensures that you, the Customer, will have control over the final step to obtain closure on the documents, not the Vendor. And you will be in a position of power to politely remind the Vendor to get the signatures on  the Contract.

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