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Find this Podcast “The Most Innovative SharePoint RFP We’ve Seen in 15 Years” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


Transcript

Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill Podcast. This is your host, Danny Ryan, and I have my co-host with me here, Tommy Ryan. Hello, Tommy.

 

Tommy Ryan:Good morning, Danny.

 

Danny Ryan:How are you doing?

 

Tommy Ryan:Wonderful. Ready for the cookout today.

 

Danny Ryan:Excellent. What do we have going on today?

 

Tommy Ryan:The product showcase.

 

Danny Ryan:We talked a little bit about that. That’s one where we get together and share some of the stuff going on and projects, take a little bit of a deeper dive.

 

Tommy Ryan:That’s right. That’s right. We go out and grill. We have the leadership grill for the team.

 

Danny Ryan:I’m not going to be on that lead. I’m not invited to the leadership. I’m just kidding. You guys do a great job with grilling out. Thank you for doing that.

 

Tommy Ryan:Sure.

 

Danny Ryan:Today, I wanted to follow up. Last week, we talked about why starting with a workshop … Why we typically break up the projects into two steps and the benefits of doing that. This week, we wanted to focus in on a recent … We’ve done a lot of RFPs, a lot of RFPs.

 

Tommy Ryan:A few.

 

Danny Ryan:I tried to minimize the amount of RFPs. I know you go after it a little bit different. We’ve been in business for a long time and through the years have had some RFPs come up. A majority of which we typically won’t go after or we’ll just find it as a bit of a waste of time. More recently, have done an RFP that we thought was pretty innovative, and I just wanted to sit down and talk with you about that. Maybe share this experience that we had with prospects and clients so as they look at their next RFP … Just share some of the things that we learned. I guess to get us kicked off with this, describe what typically happens on an RFP, and then what was different about this one.

 

Tommy Ryan:Well, with a typical RFP, there really is a person that’s driving. We need to go out there and, say, choose from a group of vendors. That might be driven based on price. That might be driven based on requirements of the organizations like the governmental organization. It might be due to not having a good vendor and wanting to go through the process of sourcing and looking for who is that next vendor or vendors that we get us to help on our application development or maintenance of our environments.

 

That RFP is written to be able to be distributed to organizations that can provide those services, and they have to follow all the instructions, fill out every line item on that RFP and submit it. Sometimes it’s selected from that and sometimes it’s a two-step process where there’s a narrowing down and they take a deeper dive with those vendors through maybe reference checks, maybe through further interviews or further questions. That’s typically how we seen it run.

 

In a lot of cases, there is a vendor that’s helping the customer create what that RFP would be. In those situations, the other vendors that come in, you look at the vendor that’s creating the RFP as the organization in column A of that spreadsheet. There’s column B, C, D. Those are what we call column fodder. A lot of times it’s going through the motions of we have to do the RFP and because we have to do it, we need to do all the work to prepare for that. A vendor that’s in on that conversation, in on that envisioning of what’s need to get done will create that. Sometimes they’ll create it in their favor, not always, but I think it’s always in their favor if they’re in the seat of working with the customer to create what’s going to be the RFP scope of work.

 

Danny Ryan:It’s funny. I’m thinking about it back over the last couple of months. We’ve had, in another circumstance, someone approach us about an RFP. We ended up sending back some questions to them. They said, “Well, as part of this RFP, we can’t answer questions.” Then we just want to back wall. We’re not going to participate because this is … How are we going to work together if we cannot ask questions? That’s one where we just stepped out of the whole thing.

 

Then this one was interesting because it was a very well-known brand that typical folks interact with on any given Sunday. With these folks, you and I talked back and forth about it. I sent back an email to them saying, “Hey, guys. We’re just a 30-person consulting firm out of Atlanta, Georgia. Yes, we’re great at what we do, but are you really sure you want us to participate in this RFP?”

 

I think a lot of cases you won’t … Again, if you’re looking for column fodder, you’re always going to say, “Yes, we want you to participate,” because you need to have those other columns filled out. This one I think we got back an answer which he talked about why he chose us which had to do with our process. Got into I think some things that we felt like it was worth our while to go through this. We did end up participating in it, talking about it internally and going through the process.

 

The first part of this was very similar to a lot of RFPs that we go through which was a series of questions that were asked and we fill it out. They, like with the workshop, had a two-step process which was an initial selection of vendors and that wasn’t … I don’t know how unique that was with other RFPs.

 

The second part of it was what really what I wanted for us to really emphasize and talk about which was after you got through that first round, which we were fortunate enough to get through, they had a proof of concept stage which allowed for us to go after a smaller project together. Tell me more about what that is, why we thought that was innovative.

 

Tommy Ryan:It was a proof of concept of something that really was a value to them. They were setting up an extranet on Microsoft 365 and wanted to go through the process of improving what they’ve done in the past, enabled their power users to get more out of the platform.

 

We don’t know what the other vendors had as POCs. My assumption is it was something different, but it could have been the same thing. We went through that and we treated it just like a project. We had a team. We had a Scrum master, an architect, a dev lead and then an additional developer come in. It was only around 80 hours of work but we treated it as a full life cycle engagement where we had two sprints. They got to go through the process of sprint planning, daily stand-ups, sprint reviews and adjustments to be able to pull in scope. What is the next sprint based on what you learned in the first sprint? What’s the next set of things that are going to be the most value for you?

 

We treated it as though this is real money. We’re not just sitting here going through a sales process. We’re engaging as a delivery organization so they can see what they’re buying. We’ve never been through an RFP that was like that. Additional to that, what was unique about it is they said for the vendors that are not selected that they’d be compensated for their POC.

 

Danny Ryan:My high sales expense cost alert alarms were going off, but now they’ve gone off.

 

Tommy Ryan:Right.

 

Danny Ryan:This was something that was agreed upon that at least we’ll be … 80 hours is not a lot of work but it is still-

 

Tommy Ryan:It’s a lot of money for a small company.

 

Danny Ryan:It is a lot of money for a small company and there’s a lot of work. We were pulling people off of other billable projects. It’s something that had an impact to us to go and do this. That’s interesting. How did that make it more real?

 

Tommy Ryan:Well, when you look at it, if you’re trying to sell yourself to an organization, you’re looking at, well, let me impress them. Let me go to the nth degree and gold plate a lot of things to really impress their organization. With knowing that they’re going to pay for it, you want to feel like we put just enough of effort compared to the value that was received. You’re really thinking about, “Is this good enough?” Then moving on to the next thing which is the way we operate within projects. They got to see what we really work like, what style we have, what approach we have when it comes to a real engagement versus let’s just give you a bunch of bells and whistles. That looks great. When it comes to our project, you’re not going to really see that because that’s not practical. It got real with that. The decisions that we made there are some things that we probably would have done if it was a sales effort that we put to the side because they didn’t see the value. It allowed us to have that back and forth.

 

It’s amazing, very refreshing. We were talking about this yesterday in our retrospective as we were thinking about what we learned through the RFP. We found out we weren’t selected and that was good news and bad news.

 

Danny Ryan:I can’t name this podcast how to win an RFP?

 

Tommy Ryan:It’s how to be a graceful loser. Being compensated, that’s a positive side of it. Also, we had another positive side. They look at how we performed and said, “You’re really more for custom application development versus more of the managed services piece of what they had.” It was more of a cost equation than a how much SharePoint knowledge and how deep is your process.

 

Danny Ryan:I think our sweet spot has been typically hitting project services as well, too.

 

Tommy Ryan:Right. When we were looking at this, they basically said there were two opportunities there. One is the managed services piece of maintaining applications and one is for creating new which they do a lot internally, but there are times that they need to create from scratch, let’s say, or a very major enhancement where they can’t do it with their own people. They would need to get someone involved whether that’d be their managed services partner or another vendor. We’re in that list of another vendor based on what they experienced and what they liked. We got a lot of great feedback. A

 

t the end of the day, we’re not looking be the lowest cost provider. Losing because it was lowest cost provider is affirming that that’s not what we’re targeting. If that’s what they were looking for, then we’re not going to be the number one person in that column in terms of the rating. We’re looking for more of the quality, the process, the people aspect of it.

 

That was something that came out of our retrospective to ask in RFP is how are they weighing certain factors? What are the critical success factors? We got a sense of some of that but we really didn’t dive as deep to understand. Would they share that information about price of that being a key, key factor? Maybe they would have. You never know.

 

Danny Ryan:We’re seeing out of this, I think, there are also a couple of things that I think going through this RFP were you really … Both sides are interviewing each other. I think part of the folks thinks that when you’re running an RFP, you’re just looking at the vendors. If they’re good vendors, they’re interviewing clients as well to see, hey, are these going to be good folks to work with? Are we going to be able to be successful together?

 

I think one of the positives that I saw out of this was that we provided references to them. They did end up talking to the references. I know if you are out there putting an RFP out there, and you say you’re going to talk to the references … I’ve had so many times where I have worked with … These are important people to us who I try to set up these references with and they never happen. They never even contacted. I think a part of it I feel more comfortable with working with this organization because they’re going to do their do their part. It’s the little things. It’s knowing that they’re going to take care of their side. They’re going to do the things that they say they’re going to do.

 

I think doing the reference checks … I follow up with folks to say, “We’re able to talk to them, what was said.” Those types of things. I think it’s important if you are running an RFP to make sure that if you’re asking for references to set clear expectations that who you’re going to contact and then contact them.

 

Tommy Ryan:I agree. I think what was refreshing about this RFP is I really felt that it was a two-way street, not only from a compensation standpoint, that was a big part, but also the interaction. They’re busy folks that we’re working with but they participated to allow us to give them a sense of how we deliver. You know, at the end of the day, we can’t be successful without it being a team effort with our customer. To get a sense of that, helps us to understand what’s our likelihood of success if we did go forward with this customer. We’ve got customers. It’s on a spectrum.

 

The ones that end up not participating with us in the process of building out that solution from collaboratively working through what’s important, that’s really proportional to how successful we are with the engagement. It’s not just the money. It’s not just getting a good bill rate and a lot of project work. It’s looking at how well do we work together because that’s going to affect the morale of our teams. There’s less churn around talking through the things that are unproductive about the engagement. It’s always better when we have good chemistry with the customer.

 

Danny Ryan:I think that’s also one of the things we look at with these RFPs is if the expectation is, hey, we’re going to write a spec. You guys are just going to build to that spec. You’re going to take what we have and go run with it. There’s no interaction. I don’t think we’re as valuable as an organization. We want to go work together to go build something out.

 

I think there was a part of this whole process where there was this interaction between the two companies that allowed for us to build something better than if it was, hey, here’s your RFP document. Tell us how much this thing is going to cost for you to go build this. There wasn’t anything that was designed or put together as two organizations coming together to try to figure out the right solution for what we’re trying to do. I think that was a part of this whole process as well. Anything else before we wrap this up, Tom?

 

Tommy Ryan:No. Well, the only thing is making a RFP process where it is collaborative. It is a team effort. It’s not a spreadsheet that you have to fill out and then the vendor is selected. Those are the ones that we think are not going to to allow us to be in a position to succeed in many ways. Succeed in terms of winning RFPs. Succeed in terms of finding customers that we’re going to be able to do great work with together. We’re learning that and we have over the years.

 

RFPs, we participate in very few. As we have got experience with RFPs, this one has been the best, the one we did just recently. Hopefully, other organizations look at that and see the benefit of making an investment because it is a long-term investment that’s going to impact their success. You have to select the right vendor. If you don’t go through the process of working together, I think you’re at high risk that you selected the wrong vendor because you’re going to do it basically probably on price because everything else is pretty subjective. It’s a little bit harder to really validate how well an organization is going to serve your needs until you get in the saddle.

 

Danny Ryan:Awesome. Thanks, Tommy, for your time.

 

Tommy Ryan:Sure. Thank you, Danny.

 

Danny Ryan:Thanks, everybody, for listening. Part of this is if you just try to put out a SharePoint RFP and not have a whole lot of interaction, then you don’t have to drop by the website. If you’re really looking for somebody who is focused in on SharePoint, is really passionate about using Scrum and to build out something better, and really looking for more of a partner just not the typical vendor out there, that’s what we’re focused in on. ThreeWill, we’re out in the Southeast. Especially if you’re companies that are in the Southeast and looking for a partner, drop by our website. Come by. Say hello.

 

A chat window may open and it maybe in the chat window my famous marketing intern, Austin. Just drop by the website. Come by. We got lots of great resources up there. Subscribe to the podcast and just look forward to continuing this conversation with you, Tommy. Thanks, everybody, so much for listening today. Have a great day. Bye-bye.

 

Tommy Ryan:Bye-bye.

 

 

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