A well-established outsourcing arrangement can create value for both partners for years. But if such a partnership is built on a foundation that is shaky, there can be miscommunications that inhibit the outsourcing vendor from creating maximum value from the very beginning, or the enterprise from reaping all the rewards that outsourcing can produce.
Perhaps more than any other factor, the single document that can send a fledgling outsourcing relationship in the right, or wrong direction is the request for proposal (RFP). A poorly written RFP is often the single most common cause of confusion or service issues between an enterprise and its prospective outsourcing vendors. This problem is not an easy one to solve in any event, because enterprises sometimes have difficulty defining exactly what processes they seek to outsource or what kind of solutions they are looking to implement. Other times, an outsourcer may think they know what’s best for the enterprise regardless of what the RFP specifies, while in reality that may not be the case.
Whatever the situation may be, the responsibility to create a well-thought-out RFP that will attract effective, reasonable proposals ultimately falls upon the purchasing organization. The document outsourcing RFP best practices below have been put together by Novitex, based on our experience on the receiving end of many RFP’s. As an organization that has successfully navigated this RFP process on the way to executing long-term, value-adding solutions for our clients, read on for six best practices to abide by during the creation of your RFP.
1) Give the Service Provider Enough Time to Prepare a Thoughtful Response
The process undertaken to write an effective document outsourcing RFP is a long one. Conversely, all potential outsourcing vendors should be given enough time to produce a thoughtful, reasonable, response to your RFP. While, when necessary, a solution can be developed in a truncated amount of time, the more consideration the service provider can give to their solution design, the more variables they can consider. Oftentimes, issues that occur during the transition or implementation phase when the outsourcer begins their work, can be dealt with, or at least considered - along with potential solutions, during this initial phase – simplifying the subsequent ones.
2) Articulate Your Current Document Management State & Vision
To better solve for one or more operational pain points, your potential outsourcing vendors will need to understand your current state, and ideally, your vision of what an improved state will look like. Is your enterprise experiencing high rates of return mail? Are you experiencing difficulties with distributing personalized benefits updates, or annual enrollment notices? What would your vision look like if these processes were flowing as intended? When potential outsourcing vendors know where you stand currently in terms of operations, and where you would like to be – solutions can be developed in a manner specific to your particular pain points, and that can help you bridge that gap.
3) Detail Business & Technical Requirements for both Short & Long Term
Designing a print and mail solution for a business that does not operate in a regulated industry, such as financial services or healthcare, can be quite different from designing a solution for one that does. Potential regulatory compliance requirements – if they exist – represent just one of a myriad of variables an outsourcing vendor would need to understand during solution design. From print or mail volumes, to service level agreement (SLA) mandates, to issues like will the outsourced work be handled in an on- or off-site manner – there are many variables involved in a document outsourcing RFP response. The more detail and clarity that can be provided to potential outsourcers within your RFP, the more accurate their solution design and pricing can be.
4) Describe the Types of Documents or Communications that Must be Supported
When it comes to a document outsourcing solution, during the solution design phase – it is imperative to understand what types of documents the enterprise is seeking to outsource – and what parts of the process it seeks to off-load, if not the entire thing. This is because a document production and dissemination solution for a direct mail campaign, looks very different from a solution designed for the production and dissemination of financial statements or explanations of benefits. The equipment, materials, and even workflows of each could be drastically different according to the types of communications being outsourced, so including this type of information in the RFP can be crucial to effective service delivery.
5) Provide Data Where Possible
Enterprises may not always have statistics like cost-per-mail-piece, inbound and outbound volumes, or return mail volumes handy. Likely, gaining these types of insights is part of the reason for sending RFPs to document outsourcing vendors in the first place. However, if that type of data can be included in an RFP, it can help your potential vendors more accurately understand the current state of operations at your enterprise, while also helping them to more accurately set pricing, SLAs, provide potential savings, and help set expectations. Including as much data as possible can help shorten the due diligence period and enable your prospective vendors to expedite the creation of a better business case.
6) Detail Your Timeline & Targeted Launch Date
In addition to providing the details of everything else outlined within this article in your RFP, the obvious information that should be included can sometimes be lost in the shuffle. Be sure to include basic points like the target launch date, and desired timeline, so that your prospective vendors can design their solutions around a timeline that works for you. Even the best solutions won’t provide their intended value if they are too robust to implement within the desired timeline. For example, if a brief implementation timeline is required and made known even prior to negotiations within the original RFP the solution can be designed in a manner that is suitable to necessary timelines.
Ideally, a document outsourcing relationship between an enterprise and their service provider will become a long-term one that consistently provides value to both organizations. By adhering to the document outsourcing RFP principles we’ve outlined above, those types of best-possible results can be reached, creating a long-term, sustainable, and value-adding relationship for stakeholders on both sides of the outsourcing arrangement for years to come.