Are OSS RFPs really bad and ugly?

Essentially, RFPs [Request for Proposal] by their very nature are already flawed. You have described the situation you are in today and you are trying to fit the new technology to that situation. Assuming you are trying to transform your business, this is a dead end before you even start.”
Paul Vedam
in his article on Telco Professionals called “RFP technology selection: the good, the bad and the ugly”.

Paul’s article makes the point that the OSS (or any IT system) vendor selection process is a challenging one for CSPs. He certainly has a point. And as investments that range into many millions of dollars and impact a large percentage of people on a CSP’s payroll, these selections have significant strategic importance.

Paul also goes on to say, “As a vendor, of course I believe that my system is better than all the others – but let’s assume for now I am a CSP that has just put out an RFP. Other than price, I cannot figure out which system is right for me. As someone who was on the CSP side 20 years ago, I have a pretty good idea of what to do. However, the problem today is that technical experts figure less and less within a CSP’s IT group. Now, the group responsible for selecting key IT systems is a strange mixture of architects (maybe “markitects” is a better term), end users, and program and project managers.”

I agree in principle, but also have a more optimistic approach to vendor selection than Paul it seems. The approach I have used to help a number of CSPs to select the best-fit OSS for them is a little more sophisticated than an RFP only though.

You can see a sample vendor selection workflow here.

The approach I have refined over the years includes:

  1. Working with the CSP to evaluate current and future needs including prioritisation
  2. An initial Expression of Interest ( EOI ) to narrow down to a shortlist of 2-3 best-fit vendors to match the needs (and there is almost always only a small list that actually suits any given set of requirements in my experience)
  3. Preparation of a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) environment for the shortlist to show their existing functionality within the context of the CSP’s needs
  4. Then run the RFP process of formal responses and pricing

The main benefit of the EOI before RFP is that you can evaluate many vendors very quickly but then dive into detailed analysis and evaluation on a select few. It is also a benefit for the vendors as my approach to Eol should only take hours to respond to rather than days / weeks for an RFP response.

If your organisation does indeed show that “technical experts figure less and less within a CSP’s IT group,” (not my personal experience BTW) then I can definitely help to guide you through the process independently of any supplier.

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