5 Questions You Need to Ask During the RFP Process

March 29, 2017 Maria Abbe

 

As a vendor, we are often involved in RFP (Requests for Proposal) processes. Over the years, we’ve found these RFPs frequently cause banks to compartmentalize each solution they’re sourcing into self-directed and narrowly defined boxes.

Typically, RFPs are set in motion because a certain line of business has a need. But often the group running the RFP is in procurement or IT and not the line of business seeking an answer to its problem. This is where things often go awry. The procurement and IT folks frequently ask questions that matter to them, but not the queries that would actually address the needs of the line of business requesting the new piece of technology.

To help navigate the tricky waters of the RFP process and make sure you’re getting the information you need to make the best purchasing decision, we’ve compiled a list of 5 of the best questions we’ve been asked during the RFP process and why asking these questions is important.

 

1: How does the proposed platform/solution impact the user and the customer experience?

Why this question is important:

You want to give your users something of value and something they love to use. A vendor who can provide this type of value will make sure the customer is at the front and center of what they do and that they empower your users with a platform that is easy to use.

A good answer from a vendor focuses on why the customer is important and how their solution provides value to both the customers and the users. You should see evidence that the solution/platform directly and positively impacts the customer’s experience, and empowers the user to provide a better experience than before.

For example, if sourcing a pricing platform, you will want to look for something that empowers your relationship managers to facilitate better conversations with their borrowers that lead to better deals for all parties involved. It should also speed up the sales process by giving your RMs relevant information, in real time, from all areas of the bank. This leads to better communication with the borrower and transparency across the bank.

 

2: How will the proposed platform/solution integrate with existing and future bank systems?

Why this question is important:

The financial technology landscape is shifting, and it’s shifting fast. In this changing landscape, your tool needs to be able to communicate with other tools.

A solution that is “out of the box” and can plug and play with other solutions will help generate value right away. It will allow for efficient communication, seamless data sharing, and transparency across the bank, and ultimately create a better experience for your users and your customers.

Even if your bank begins with one piece – perhaps a CRM, or an LOS, or a pricing platform – you need to be able to expand your technology stack from that point. Solutions that integrate and communicate with one another will create a more streamlined process within the bank.

A vendor that can provide this type of integration will help your bank adapt and continue to adapt to the changing technology landscape.

 

3: Is the proposed platform/solution configurable and extensible?

Why this question is important:

This question piggybacks off Question 2. Customization is a thing of the past. The platform you choose should grow with the needs of the bank, and be easily configurable and extensible.

On-premise systems require heavy coding and heavy lifting, not only on the front-end while they’re being set up, but also as the years go on. Each time something breaks or your bank would like a custom integration with another tool, more of your time and money will be spent on the vendor, as they seek to keep you up to date.

Many SaaS, cloud-based solutions allow for real-time updates and bug fixes with no additional charges to you. The changes they make for you are often applied to the rest of their customer base, and vice versa. When vetting this question, look for a vendor who is transparent about how they configure their solution, what on-going support looks like, and how many bug-fixes and deployments they do per month. Basically, you want to know: Is their solution capable of handling the shifting technology landscape, and how willing is the vendor to adopt and change as the industry changes?

 

4: What is your solution’s time to value?

Why this question is important:

A long implementation and multiple iterations of customizations are money leaving your pockets … fast. You should look for a solution that delivers value immediately and consistently.

On-premises systems require an upfront software license expense that is followed by customization, integration, IT personnel, maintenance, audit/compliance, training, and hardware expenses. Not to mention the extensive time and effort put into each of these categories.

You should be looking for a solution that can get up and running quickly, efficiently, effectively, and with very little to no ongoing costs (besides the subscription fee).

The best banks choose the best tools and get them up and running quickly so they can begin adding value. The reference stage is a great place to vet whether a vendor will hold true to their promise of a swift implementation.

 

5: Can you provide me several customer references?

Why this question is important:

Talking with others who have experience using the solutions you’re sourcing is important. But the questions you ask references are what’s really important. You need to ask about the tangibles. Knowing how nice the vendor is to work with won’t help when you’re trying to show bank leadership and management the ROI of the newly implemented system.

  • Ask about implementation. Were they up in the amount of time they promised? Were they over budget? Under budget?
  • Ask about metrics. Have they achieved the ROI the vendor promised? If so, how long did it take for that to come to fruition?
  • Ask about ongoing support. Have they listened to your needs? Are they quick to respond? Are they helpful? How do they handle difficult situations? How transparent, open, and honest are they?

 

Obviously, this isn’t the exhaustive list of questions you need to ask during an RFP, but they’ll get you started and they’ll help you frame additional queries. Before your procurement team takes things down into the weeds, make sure the solutions you’re sourcing will meet the needs of the group that’s going to use, as well as the customers they serve.

For some additional insight into how you should approach vetting vendors, check out our white paper “How to Buy Bank Technology.” In particular, pay close attention to the section titled: “The 5 C’s of Bank Vendor Assessment and Selection.”

 

About the Author

Maria Abbe

Content Manager at PrecisionLender

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