Of all business processes, procurement is arguably the one least touched by the technological revolution. Sure, in the Dark Ages - and I mean the 1970s - you had to send your Request for Information through the post. Then you got to fax it. And now your RfI reaches potential suppliers at the speed of light, or almost. Is that progress? You’ve thrown away the stamps, but the procedure itself is intact. You still have to jump through the same hoops.
The reasons for this are understandable. Organizations want to spend money carefully and intelligently. A formal procurement process is never convenient but it achieves two important things: it vets potential suppliers and forces organizations to consider carefully what it is they need.
You don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s by requesting information about functionalities you will never use. Worse still is to miss out a requirement that will prove to be indispensable to your business model. So a lot of serious thinking needs to happen before you are ready to finalise that RfI.
And then? Shortlist! You invite three suppliers and make a formal proposal to win your business. In your Requests for Proposal, you have to be very detailed and specific about what you are looking for because an RfP is in effect a blueprint for the project itself, and the basis for a formal quote.
No amount of screenshots or technical specifications can match the experience of working with the actual software. An MVP gives you the core features, but this is an advantage because you want your own bespoke solution anyway. This stripped-down version of the platform brings great business focus to what add-ons you need; often these turn out to be different from the requirements you outlined in your RfI. An RfP can never give you such insight, because the responses you get only echo what you thought you needed. But an MVP is a much earlier encounter with reality, and can be trialled in the field, with real customers, giving real feedback and actionable insight.
Knowing what you want, and how the software “behaves”, shortens development time and speeds up implementation. The roll-out itself will be less bumpy not least because you have already developed a relationship with your customers, and with the product developers.
RfPs are deeply embedded in the way we all do business, and most public bodies and very large companies will find it difficult to break free. But for the rest of us, MVPs are really an agile and much more practical response to the challenges and pitfalls of procurement.
And who doesn’t like a cupcake?
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