Break the RFP cycle with these steps

In an industry that is continually changing, why do we use an antiquated request for proposal (RFP) process that’s designed to secure a temporary solution? RFPs aren’t built to identify lasting partners, because templated versions often focus on features rather than solutions.

As a learning solutions provider, we’ve reviewed, qualified, and responded to hundreds of RFPs over the past few years. We’ve seen it all: the strong, thoughtful requests, the lackluster templates sent straight from procurement, and the 300-question yes/no checklists.

We’re not telling you to never again use an RFP. In fact, we’ve found some of the best clients and our favorite projects behind inflexible RFPs. We know that as long as learning and development has to seek out and implement complex software, they’ll need an RFP to justify the expense.

However, if you find yourself in the cycle of putting out an RFP every time your LMS contract ends, let us help. RFPs take weeks to create, and the response review and scoring process can steal weeks worth of time and productivity from your team.

If your procurement process requires that you issue a formal RFP to LMS providers, make it the last RFP you ever have to issue. We want you to find the best LMS for your changing learning environment, so we’ve put together a few RFP recommendations that will help you find an LMS that suits your business needs as they grow and change year after year.

Solution First

RFPs often look like a checklist of features. If a vendor responds to all of the features with a yes, then that vendor moves on to the next round of decisions. This feature-first mentality doesn’t always align a solution with the true business objectives of the organization. If a yes or no question will disqualify a vendor, you might want to rethink how you pose questions. Create decision criteria based on the problems you’re hoping to solve rather than the features you want to implement. The best vendors can address your most pressing issues with a customized solution. One-size-fits-all questions get one-size-fits-all vendors.

Be Transparent

The more transparent you can be with your request, the better aligned your vendor responses will be. Be clear about your requirements, timelines, implementation plans, and business needs. Clue your vendors in on your true expectations for the project and they’ll be better positioned to answer your questions.

Provide Realistic Timelines

Some of the best RFPs provide clear, actionable timelines for the project. If demos or presentations are part of your RFP process, build in time for these requirements. Don’t forget to include time for questions and discussions about scope and requirements.

Ask the Right Questions

If you can avoid a template and customize your RFP to suit your unique needs, that’s ideal. If you can’t, we recommend supplementing the template with these questions. These should force your potential vendors to create a solution for you, rather than just an RFP response. These questions are the key to finding a vendor that will provide you with a level of flexibility and support that can break your timely and costly RFP cycle.

“How will you support us after implementation?”

Everyone knows that LMS support is lacking for most vendors. We’ve heard countless stories about organizations implementing a new LMS and then crickets when they have questions or need help. When putting together an RFP, it’s impossible to foresee what bugs and issues might come up in six months, but it is possible to learn how your vendor will handle them. Don’t just ask about support bundles or options – ask how the vendor will continue to support you past implementation and throughout the life of your LMS. Roundtable holds monthly or quarterly calls to review the system with you.

“What team is specifically dedicated to this project?”

A good LMS partner will know that support, communication, and transparency, are the key ingredients to a successful implementation. They should be able to devote a team of dedicated support specialists, project managers, technical specialists, and more, to your project. Ask for names and contact information.

“What project management tools and practices do you use?”

Roundtable creates a unique project management portal for every client in which the client can track the progress of their LMS build and implementation. You deserve more than a monthly call or a spreadsheet. Ask how the vendor tracks projects in a transparent way.

“How will you respond as our learning initiatives change?”

The right vendor will become a partner to you as your learning initiatives change. This is the root issue of needing a new RFP every two or three years. Your LMS should grow with your company year after year, and not just through standard product releases. Ask about change management, new initiatives, and, again, support.

“What is the greatest single feature that differentiates you from your competitors?”

The right vendor should be able to give you a clear, concise message about their true differentiator. And if you hear the same thing from every vendor, ask for clarification.

At Roundtable, we built our business around these questions. We lead the industry in LMS support and only build learning management systems that can scale quickly and easily with organizational change. Skip the whole RFP process and explore our solution, here.