Sunday, December 01, 2013

Is there any place for the Long ITT anymore?

Shopping List  
The short answer

The only slightly less short answer
No, except when you have to, such as OJEU or similar requirements.

The Full Answer
Okay, let's address this question properly. First of all, what do I mean by a "Long Tick-box ITT"? Well, pretty much as it sounds: it's when you devise hundreds and hundreds of questions, mostly about functionality, and ask suppliers to respond to your Invitation to Tender (ITT) document by asking them to tick a box which says if they can meet that requirement. Often, this will be a MoSCoW method (or similar): Must have, Should have, Could Have, Won't. (Never underestimate how much IT loves its acronyms and pseudo-acronyms). And then sometimes one asks if they can do it 'Out of the box' or 'with customisation' or 'not at all' - or similar. Thus, the suppliers tick these boxes, you add-up their scores, sometimes weight the questions with more/less importance and hey presto, we have a winner. Or at least a short-list which you can then invite in for a demo.

But it's really not as simple as that. In the first place, suppliers have been known (shock horror) to stretch the truth when ticking boxes and interpret a question so they can say yes they can do it when maybe they can't really... And in some ways, that's understandable as writing such questions so they are non-ambiguous can be difficult.

Plus, completely understandably these days, 'generic' CRM suppliers can probably say with (almost?!) complete honesty that they can do all almost all of a CRM ITT's requirements because their systems have been designed for exactly that flexibility. But that still doesn't mean they are necessarily right for you to buy.

And it doesn't tell you anything about how they would do it, or if they do it well, or if they understand the question and so on. Okay, so some of that can be addressed at a software demonstration but by that point you may have knocked out a good option (supplier) without knowing it, or you might find a supplier is actually completely inappropriate for your organisation or requirements. It's just a non-efficient method.

In fact, the time it takes for this whole process is a looooong time. A long time for you to create the initial document, a long time for the supplier to answer and a long time for you and your colleagues to read all the responses and mark them.

Couldn't there be a better way of using your time? In my opinion, yes. Personally, when I help charities with a procurement, I prefer more 'open' tender documents (aka RFP - Request for Proposal), asking for more expansive responses, possibly with the inclusion of process diagrams and a more interactive approach with the suppliers all round.

And I'm not completely against including a few lists here or there in the RFP of specific requirements which you must have - especially where they are especially important. But I don't ask suppliers to tick each bullet point.

Clearly, there is a lot more to the whole procurement process than just the above - but super-long ITTs? No, not for me. I don't think they help you select the best supplier for you. Which is ultimately what you want.

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