The importance of an RFP for a Project Manager

A Request For Proposal is one of the first steps in the process of the digitization of your beverage business, this is where you give an insight for the quote of your project. You give an overview of your needs and wishes for the Business Processes you already have or you envision for the future. It can be tricky but it’s a very important step to find a good partner in your new IT solution. To help you in this process, we had an interesting interview through Teams with Dirk Bruynseraede, our Project Manager, to give you more insight into the world of RFP’s. 

Hello Dirk, what is your job within Drink-IT?  

I actually have several functions. First of all, I’m a Project Manager for Drink-IT projects, I follow up projects from A to Z. I’m also the team leader of the Drink-IT Operations Team which means that I guide the team throughout our operational projects. Lastly, I’m the Project Management Officer for Drink-IT.  

And in your daily job, do you come in contact with the submitted RFP’s?  

Yes, in my job as PMO, I do the calculations of the quotes for our new prospects. When a new potential customer comes in, our sales team will receive the RFP and they will reach out to me or my colleague. Then we start evaluating the content of the RFP and give out every item on the RFP to our Business Consultant that is an expert in that field. Afterwards, we combine all the consultant’s feedback and set up a budget.  

Why, as a customer, is an RFP important?  

When you set up an RFP it’s mainly to start your search in a good IT partner. You have decided to digitize your processes, so you start by doing research and (hopefully) find several companies that could do the job and create the “long list”. To decide which partners meet your requirements the best (and move these to the “short list”) an RFP will allow you to make this selection in a structured way. All parties will be answering the questions on your RFP in the same way. This allows you to make a good, realistic and practical choice to define the partners you want to initiate in-depth discussions on your ERP project.  

Does a ‘good’ RFP make your job easier?  

Yes of course, when an RFP describes the business processes, that’s when we can set up a realistic offer. This makes not only my job easier but is also more valuable for the potential client to get a useful presentation of the options. 80% of the requested components in the RFP’s that we receive, can be filled in with standard functionalities of Drink-IT. Later in the process, through analysis and our solution overview, we can estimate more components like licensing and add-ons that are needed.  

Do you have any tips on setting up a relevant Request For Proposal?  

We can see when an RFP is put together by companies that already have experience with IT solutions. When you don’t have this experience, it can be difficult to really specify what you need. My tip would be to get advice through an independent specialist to write out your requirements. And to not only focus on the thought that ERP is just a cost! When you could gain 15-20% of your time by implementing a good ERP system but you’re not willing to invest, you’re actually losing money since time is money. My last tip, if you don’t have a lot of experience with ERP implementations, don’t burn yourself on writing a fully detailed RFP but focus on your own company. Start with the mindset ‘What are the processes in my business and what would I like to optimize and automate.’  

What are some common mistakes?  

When we receive RFP’s, it’s sometimes hard to predict what the customer exactly needs since the RFP is written very globally and we only have the big outlines of the requirements. Make sure you think of the unusual business process scenarios, specific to your company.  

Another challenge is when the RFP is written for the replacement of an already deployed ERP solution. Quite often the RFP focusses on replacing the system instead of finding new and additional functions. The RFP should focus on the “to-be”, not on the “as-is” situation.  

What is a misconception of an RFP in the IT world?  

Sometimes, it’s expected to receive an in-depth quote for the project based on the first RFP. Unfortunately, it takes more time and effort to create this since we need more information. When you buy a car, it’s a lot easier! You check all the boxes of the options you want in your car and you get a set price. In the process of a digital transformation, a lot more information is required. We can give a first estimation but for a complete detailed version, we need in-depth investigating and analysis. That’s also the reason we can’t provide a full demo on a working solution, this would be the next step after the RFP. 

The goal of an RFP is not to decide on the way the ERP solution will be implemented, but to decide which partner is closest to your business. Which partner has the most of your requirements covered with standard functionality? Which partner understands your business? Which partner convinces me the most that they will successfully implement an ERP solution in your company? 

Is there a different approach within Drink-IT, in comparison to other IT partners?  

The biggest difference in handling our quotes is a result of our specialization in the beverage industry. Drink-IT is a “vertical solution”, meaning it is developed for a specific kind of companies (Breweries, Distillers, Beverage wholesale,..). With a history of nearly 20 years, Drink-IT has evolved into a solution that will fit most of your requirements as a beverage company, based on “best practices” approach. Not only does Drink-IT understand the requirements, but it can also even propose new and better processes.  

An IT partner that does not offer a vertical solution will need to build a lot more customizations on top of the base functions of an ERP solution, resulting in longer implementation time and higher costs.  

Thank you Dirk for this interesting interview and the knowledge you shared during our interview on remote!

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