Worst. RFP. Ever. Can we just pretend it never happened (like the rest of 2020) and move on?

The RFP of 2020


Now, I’m not one to complain, well maybe I am… but, I swear this RFP is out of hand. What’s the saying – you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet? Well, I’ve broke enough to feed a small army. And then some.

Continually changing timelines? Check.

Drastic reduction in projected volumes after proposals are submitted? Check.

Multiple updates to specifications? Double Check.

I’m not sure which will end first (2020 or the RFP); either way, I see a bottle of tequila and lime in my near future.


RFP Lessons Learned

There were a lot of lessons to be learned, and this event isn’t even over yet! But for the sake of remaining positive, I’ll end with the silver lining.

First, at least the transition that was planned to happen in January 2021, isn’t happening. Takes a bit of stress off my shoulders.

Next, I won’t have to worry about it for another three years minimum. And by that time, I’m going to pass it on to my no longer ‘new’ employee. Let’s just hope there are no more surprises waiting for the end of the RFP (and year)!

Not to mention, there’s always something to be said for getting all of the mistakes out of the way.

How Many Times Could a Timeline Change, If a Timeline Could Change Time?

I’ve been working on this RFP all year. And that would be completely fine, except it’s been started and stopped multiple times since last year.

And, it’s not the first or second time we’ve gone out to bid for this spend category (and sub-categories) in the past couple of years. So you would think it would be easier this round. Not so much.

I’ve had to move the pitch presentations three times. THREE! (And I know if I’m annoyed by this, so are the suppliers!)

Not to mention, we originally were going to combine sub-categories into a single RFP to save time and effort. And then that changed the day before we were going to send out the RFP. Awesome.

I’m one to roll with the punches, but this got out of control. Quickly. And at this point I’m not sure what’s worse – the RFP or my two-year-old constantly screaming during business meetings. Quite frankly I’ve lost my patience with both.

Murphy’s Law on Crack

Oh let me count the ways an RFP can go wrong. Or in this case, maybe I just need to vent. Because some of these changes were completely out of anybody’s control. Since I’ve already covered my timeline annoyance, let’s move on to bigger issues.

1. Updating of Specifications 

Now I’m not going to blame my business partner (whom I dearly love working with), but technically they are in the least partially to blame. They are the SME – subject matter expert.

That said, I also take partial blame. I didn’t have enough time to properly research (Having six other RFPs at the time didn’t help) all best practices.

That said, we DID spend weeks refining the exact requirements for pricing, volume, and everything else we could think of. We even updated and thought through our old RFP, and incorporated best practices from a supplier’s RFP template.

And somehow, we still ended up sending out updated specifications. Twice. Cursed I tell you. Cursed.

2. Drastic Reduction in Volumes

This is definitely out of anyone’s control. There was no way of knowing our expected product launch wouldn’t happen.

And we based our two-year projection on the potential for our current business to double. Nothing says, ‘extra work without ROI’ to change your pricing proposal cut in half instead of doubling. AFTER you’ve already submitted through our system.

3. Inconsistent Pricing Proposals

Ever try to compare apples to oranges to kiwis and kumquats? Yeah, that’s what we got.

If one place charged by sq. foot for storage, another charged by pallet, and another by shelf space. And then take this time 15-20 different items.

We had to have a follow-up call with all of them just to try and normalize for comparison. You think you are doing the right thing by giving a little leeway to suppliers on proposal requirements, but you’re actually just shooting yourself in the foot.

4. Technical Issues

I personally don’t think responding to an RFP in an e-sourcing tool is hard, but it does have its challenges. Even more so, when it’s not working from the buyers’ side. Which was Strike One.

I am okay with people having issues. I am not when they involve not following instructions. Strike Two.

And the final strike comes from the system deciding it was going to change the timeline to the day prior. Even AFTER I extended the timeline manually.

5. Other Annoyances

So what else could go wrong? Well, it wouldn’t be the world’s worst RFP unless we split it into TWO separate ones (with different questions for the same sub-category) a week before it was supposed to be distributed.

Or how about a decision-maker who constantly asks to be invited, yet never shows up to any of the meetings? That’s fun.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the countless other minor annoyances that come with any RFP.  But I won’t drone on. I’m just going to suck it up and chalk it up to experience. One that I hope I never have to repeat!

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Worst. RFP. Ever. Can we just pretend it never happened (like the rest of 2020) and move on? 1

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