So, you've secured a budget. You've sat through endless meetings with every little department that has any content on the site and recorded every minute detail of their requirements for the new site. You've done your best to clarify goals and objectives that aren't as detailed as you'd like because even your CEO is a little uncertain about how the web fits into your business today (or tomorrow, for that matter). You've combed through a list of agencies who are the least like your last one, but who have the skills to help you. You've even thought a lot about how important "fit" is to a successful agency relationship and included your expectations for achieving it.
Now you have to have someone package it all up into a document that can be distributed. You're already past your timeline targets and your fickle executives are getting impatient (nevermind the fact that they are the ones who delayed the process in the first place!). You've got to attend to the business. So you assign a writer to make the whole thing make sense and pass it on to procurement to get their stamp on it. Here’s what happens next –
· Someone not qualified sitemaps the current site while getting a moderate amount of input from other departments about what is missing. This causes the number of pages on the site to go from 50 to 150.
· The RFP writer, having structured hundreds of these documents, has some boiler plate information like goals for the re-design, and that the site is not clean, and gets a few bullet points from you as the Director of Marketing.
· The scope and requirements come next - formed from weeks of meetings where every idea that got thrown out was recorded in the minutes and added to the ultimate RFP.
· The next section created is a crazy list of requirements in order to answer the RFP. Things that are irrelevant to the ability of the firm to complete your project –
o Endless pages of background
o A complete list of the team that will be on the project and their mother’s maiden name, all prior to gaining a true understanding of what team should be on the project.
o A complete strategic vision based on this six page document. For Free.
o Picture of the agency CEO in a Zebra Costume
· Finally, the RFP writer then hits CTRL F and replaces <CLIENT> with <YourCompanyName>.
Yep, the final version has everything. It's cluttered and anything but succinct. But hey, if the agencies want to earn your business, they'll deal with it and smile through. Now this may be a little hyperbolic, but it is not far from what the average RFP looks like.
The frustration? The agency wants to give you the best possible scope and strategy for your budget because they want to win the business, but cannot begin to understand it through this limited document. So invariably, something is sold that –
· Does not meet your real needs
· Lacks informed strategy
· Has the wrong team members assigned to it
· Requires an immediate change order
· Completely changes after a discovery period
The resulting project is already off to a rocky start, and as the director in charge, you are put in a tough situation. The alternative is surprisingly easy and will result in less work (time and effort) that goes into creating an RFP.
- Talk about your company structure
- Talk about the business problems you are facing
- Ask how the agency is going to address these problems
This results in a descriptive not prescriptive RFP that forces the agency to give you what you wanted all along – strategy. Do not worry about scope because the agency is an expert at scoping projects, far better than your RFP writer.
Ultimately, you should base your decision on how well the agency creatively and fully addresses your business problem.