Pitfalls on the way to a first-rate Request for Proposal

Guest blog by Chad Woodyatt from MHI Member Company JLT Mobile Computers

Ever bought a shirt in a rush and regretted it later? You bought it from the nearest store because it was cheap and easy. But later you realize it doesn’t suit you, it’s too big and it’s made from cheap fabric. It’s a suboptimal shirt. Well, it’s the same when you purchase IT equipment for your workplace. If you rush and buy the easiest option based on price you end up with a suboptimal solution.

Big purchases deserve careful planning, especially if it’s a long-term contract or equipment that lasts for many years, like rugged computers for your warehouse operations. Crafting a well-defined Request for Proposal (RFP) is critical for getting the most effective and cost-competitive solution, but it takes a considerable amount of effort and there are quite a few pitfalls. Let’s look at three of the most common mistakes of issuing an RFP.

Pitfall one – insufficient or bad planning

You need to put out an RFP for rugged computers, but you have a stack of other projects on the go and keep putting it off. Days, or even weeks, go by and suddenly there’s a small window to put everything together.

Because you don’t have much time, you rush the paperwork, missing the chance to scan the market for options, and you forget to engage the relevant stakeholders, like the user community. As a result, the RFP falls flat, and you end up with poor bids.

Another mistake in the planning stage is having a lack of coordination and too little communication between departments involved in the RFP, such as IT, operations, and procurement. This can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and confusion.

Pitfall two – unclear or incomprehensible documentation

At the heart of any RFP process is the documentation. It needs to be clear, comprehensive, and easy to understand. However, this is not always the case, especially if you’re a victim of pitfall number one.

Over the 25 years we’ve been in business we’ve seen a lot of copy and pasting. The easiest thing is to use the same specification the company issued last time. Quick, simple, and painless. Well painless now, but probably not in the future. Technology will have moved on and you could be left behind. For example, projective capacitive touch supersedes resistive touch and cellular is replacing WiFi.

It’s also tempting to search the internet for similar RFPs and copy and paste from there. However, there’s no guarantee that the source document is from a business that has the same set up as yours, with the same challenges and the same business plan. As a result, you’ll end up with the wrong specification and the wrong equipment.

Sometimes, you’ve written your RFP documents from scratch, but they’re hard to understand so suppliers can’t determine what you want. On the other hand, if you include too much detail you can exclude a lot of companies from bidding by being too specific.

Getting the specification wrong can result in serious problems particularly when it comes to public RFPs where the process is very strict and it’s not possible to change a specification in the middle of the process.

Pitfall three – wrong decision criteria

Even if you’ve planned well and written the best documentation, the good work can be undone by utilizing bad decision criteria.

We’re all out for a bargain. As consumers we’re attracted by offers like buy one get one free, 20% off and so on, but we’re also aware that buying on price alone can lead to some disastrous purchases. And it’s the same in business.

Being short-sighted and buying purely on the price tag can lead to cheap rugged devices that are not up to the job and quickly break down. And not looking beyond the upfront cost could mean you haven’t thought about things like service and warranty, so you are left with obsolete and useless devices.

In some countries reverse auctions are common in place of traditional RFPs. In these online bidding auctions, bidders can see each other’s pricing and are activity encouraged to undercut the lowest bid. But cheap doesn’t mean best. Cheap can mean regular breakdowns, an unhappy workforce, and earlier end-of-life than more expensive solutions, all resulting in poor productivity and increased operational costs. Cheap in the short term, but an expensive decision overall.

A purchase is always a trade off

It’s not very often in life that you will find a product or service that ticks all your boxes. There is normally a trade-off in terms of budget, timeline, migration path, user acceptance, future plans and so on. But with solid planning, good documentation, and the correct decision criteria you can get the optimal solution for you.

At JLT Mobile Computers, we’ve bid on lots of RFPs and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Now that you’ve got an idea of what can go wrong without proper research, read our guide with more useful tips on how to buy the best rugged computers for your business.