Posted by: Adam Deane | 23/02/2012

BPM: Tenders and other fun

BPM TendersTenders, RFIs, RFQs and RFPs – Aren’t they fun!

We’ve all been there before.
Hundreds of questions. Most of them ambiguous. Scoring.
Describe, write and explain. Keep it short. Keep it professional.
It usually means one thing – late nights.

The biggest problem in tenders is poorly defined requirements.

Given ambiguous requirements, most vendors will simply tick the “yes” box.
Given unfocused questions, most vendors will make the issue sound complex.

Given a well formed tender, vendors will think that it’s precooked for a competitor.
Given a badly formed tender, most vendors will think that there is no real budget.

Underpromise and overdeliver!… yes… but not in a tender.
So most vendors promise the moon, and a rocketship to reach it.
Once a vendor has been chosen, there is little chance that they will be “unchosen”.

Standard tender questionnaires don’t cover specific business pains.
Custom tender questionnaires don’t cover future business plans.
You’re going to spend a lot of money. So how do you get it right?

The best question that I’ve seen in a tender was along the lines of:
“The solution requires process modelling, execution, simulation, monitoring, optimization, documentation, collaboration and integration – Which components of the solution does your offering excel in”.
I liked it because it gives the customer a way to see strengths and weaknesses.
No solution excels in everything, so it also gives the customer a chance to see if the vendor is talking bull….

The best run tender that I’ve seen was when the customer brought in an external consultancy company with BPM expertise to run the tender, where the emphasis was less on the questionnaire and more on the POC. I’m a big advocate of “seeing is believing”.

The whole principle of the tender process is based on creating competition and achieving best value.
But most tenders put an emphasis on software features and functionality.
Its easier to score. Expertise, experience, professional services are harder to score.
We all understand the principle behind tenders, it’s just that the process fails on pretty much every level.

It would easy to mock the tender system, but it been used for decades, and will be used for decades to come.
Tenders are part of the sales cycle. There is no perfect tender. Each one needs to fit the customer level of understanding BPM and the business pains they are trying to solve.

Tenders, RFIs, RFQs and RFPs – Aren’t they fun!


  1. Ah, tenders… I’m a firm believer in writing down your requirements as it gives clarity but vendors should be given an opportunity to clarify any questions they may have on them, in person, if possible. Buyers may also evaluate the quality of questions presented by the vendors in their selection, i.e. who makes the most sense.

  2. The Tender process works for commodity. The tender process has become itself a commodity, but that doesnt mean that the business problems to be solved are commodity. Each prospect has its own specific environment to operate in which makes it nearly impossible to provide the right answers without doing a scoping and PoC within this environment.

    I refuse to come-up with some wild guesses, if I am not allowed to help the prospect in the best possible way by together going over the requirements and discuss the needs and possible scenarios then my conclusion is that the prospect doesnt want to be helped and it is not my customer.

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