Mark Twain, great novelist and
raconteur, was for a time an inhabitant of that once great insurance
city, Hartford Conn. From 1874
to 1891, Twain lived on Farmington Avenue, a grand, tree-lined
boulevard. The Mark Twain House
sits next to the Harriet Beecher
Stowe House and indeed the two
were neighbors for about 15 years.
For those of you who have never
visited, both are much grander
than anything to which Huck Finn
or Uncle Tom would have aspired.
Unfortunately these days one has
to ignore the surrounding urban
blight in order to appreciate these
fine old homes.
In a former life, but not quite as long ago as Mark and Harriet, I too frequented Farmington Avenue and fancied myself a
writer. In my case however, the writing was far more prosaic. I
started writing requests for proposals (RFP) when I worked in
Hartford. Over the past 30 years I have written countless RFPs.
The most recent one I was involved with was published just
There is a tendency for CEOs to become disconnected from
and unaware of the work their colleagues do and the needs and
wants of their clients. With this in mind once or twice a year I
roll up my sleeves and work on a client engagement as a way of
staying current and hopefully relevant.
Most recently I acted as a business analyst (working for one
of my own project managers) and gathered the requirements for
a policy administration system RFP. It was great fun and particularly useful. It also gave me the opportunity to revisit the issue
of why our clients go to the bother and expense of creating such
a document and whether there is a quicker and more appropriate way of moving a software selection process forward.
Indeed the trusty RFP has come under fire in recent years as
being unnecessary, clumsy, and overblown. Some of the more
recent entrants into the software selection services space have
declared that scripted demos and proofs of concept can replace
the value gained from an RFP more quickly and at less cost.
Further, they declare that vendors, especially busy successful
vendors, are unwilling to take the time to respond to a detailed
set of questions and will
at best provide less than
complete answers. So,
did my PM colleague and
I just waste our client’s
time and money? Is the
RFP a bloated relic? Is
the RFP dead?
An RFP is designed to
do several things:
K Tell a potential vendor about the client
K Tell a potential vendor about the project to be undertaken, including its basic
scope and objectives.
K Solicit information about the vendor as a company.
K Solicit information about the vendor’s software in terms of
its business functionality and technical features.
K Solicit information about the vendor’s approach to implementations and the services it provides in support of the
K Solicit basic information about terms and conditions along
with initial cost and time estimates.
This is useful information the carrier needs to evaluate
Still Alive and Kicking
Much like the great author Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of RFPs are
By George Grieve
Sooner or later
will be defined
starting with a
not lost work.