During recent Vendor/Project Success workshops for clients, I’ve been describing a process that can help alleviate a constant issue that pops up – not having the right vendors properly categorized and lined up when a specific need arises.
In other words, a project comes up, and the question is raised, “To whom can we send this RFP (request for proposal)?” Then suggestions are hastily sought as to potentially workable vendors.
Unfortunately, that means that some vendors are walking in the door for the first time, in the midst of a high-stakes process, AND they may not already be in your paperwork system as a supplier. This creates headaches getting a project off the ground; or, in some cases, simply disqualifies the best candidate because the time crunch is too short – so the project goes to a sub-optimal incumbent vendor.
Here is how to fix that. I call it the 3P Vendor Funnel.
At one point in time, every department needs to create its pool of potential preferred suppliers (I recommend that this pool be refreshed annually, as new vendors and needs appear, and as current suppliers decline in favor). This can be done through a RFI (Request For Information) process, whereby you seek out possible vendors that you may want to consider for the year ahead, and have them present themselves in a general, non-volatile format (that is, a big project is not on the line). The goal here is to gain familiarity with the vendor, and especially to narrow down to one or two areas of core strength. All vendors in the pool can then be placed in your Vendor Map (see this blog post), according to capability, therapeutic experience, project scope, etc.
Potentially desirable vendors at this point commence the paperwork (Master Services Agreement or equivalent) process so that they are already in the administrative system when it is time to choose vendors and allocate work.
Once the Vendor Map is established/refreshed, and a project needs to be resourced, you have already established a short-list of suitable vendors by core capability, so that the number of RFPs issued can be limited and well-targeted. This saves everyone – especially vendors – a lot of time, trouble, and angst. You really only want proposals from optimal potential providers anyway – it wastes everybody’s time to have a Request for Proposal filled out, to sit through a solution presentation – and then to conclude that the vendor really isn’t even in the ballpark. Or, worse, if time is very short, that a desirable new vendor has to now grind through the entire MSA system.
I recommend that a Decision Grid be used to evaluate vendor presentations (I have a sample – feel free to ask and I’ll forward). This helps make any kind of team evaluation of presentations more systematic and objective.
Finally, the process to Pick a supplier is far more efficiently reached, and the movement to contracting is not delayed because the vendor is already part of the pool.
POOL – PROJECT – PICK.
Make sense? Having been on the vendor side of the fence for many years, and having experienced many….shall we say….sub-optimal RFP processes, I can assure you that an approach like this is better for EVERYone involved. It just takes some proactive planning. I can provide a brief consulting engagement for clients that would like assistance setting up their vendor map and filling their vendor pool with recommended partners. Just call 973-947-7429 and let’s talk….