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CRM RFPs

  • 1.  CRM RFPs

    Posted Oct 26, 2015 10:21


    Hi everyone -

    If you have RFPs for CRMs and other data-related work, please consider posting them on the Nonprofits and Data CoP. Thanks!

    ------------------------------
    Judy Freed
    Marketing Strategist, Alliance for the Great Lakes
    Co-Organizer, NTEN Nonprofits and Data CoP
    Chicago, Illinois
    ------------------------------
    Tech Accelerate


  • 2.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Oct 26, 2015 12:27
    Folks can find the link to the Nonprofits & Data Community of Practice and other Communities of Practice (fondly known as CoPs) here: http://www.nten.org/community/communities-of-practice/.

    Thanks Judy!



    Tech Accelerate


  • 3.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 08, 2015 00:11

    I'd actually encourage folks to talk to a consultant or two before putting together an RFP. Often if I get an RFP where I think the approach being taken is not best practice I won't respond to an RFP at all. But if folks call me, we will spend a great hour together talking about their needs, and how I would frame them - and getting them to think about approaches - and options for approach. This is a great way to get free advice on how to structure your project, especially based on the budget you have.

    ------------------------------
    Megan Himan
    Co-Founder
    BrightStep Partners
    San Francisco CA

    Tech Accelerate


  • 4.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 09, 2015 06:52

    I'll second Megan Himan's suggestion to talk to a couple of consultants or organizations that might be interested in responding to the RFP you're considering. Too often, I see RFPs that ask for something (a CRM) before there's even a good understanding of what the organization needs. I recently had a colleague tell me about an RFP that was a small organization asking for an evaluation of AT LEAST FIVE different CRMs and a recommendation for the best one. I'm pretty sure they have no idea how much that kind of analysis that was going to cost, and I'm at least as sure that it was going to exceed their budget for the whole CRM implementation -- and get them exactly nothing but a 50 page report full of stuff they can no longer afford to do.

    My suggestion to them was to talk to 2-3 providers and get a feel for what it's like to work with them. A good relationship with a consultant that's up front about their biases for tools is a much better starting place. I also suggested that they rewrite the RFP for consulting services to help them define specific outcomes they want from the CRM implementation. That would get them to a point where everyone's on the same page about the organizations goals from the project, no matter which tool they ultimately decided to use.

    ------------------------------
    Dan O'Brien
    Director of Product Development & Solutions Architect
    Ginkgo Street Labs
    Washington DC

    Tech Accelerate


  • 5.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 10, 2015 09:48

    Another voice from a provider weighing in against jumping into an RFP process.

    In fact, I'm leading a panel on this topic at NTEN and could use a couple more voices to join the panel, especially from nonprofits who have been through an RFP process and/or an alternative process and can share their experience. I'm also looking for another provided voice, so please reach out to me if you'll be at NTEN and are interested in participating.

    There area few kinds of RFPs we've seen over the years:

    1. The NPO has diagnosed the problem and specified a solution in detail and invites bids for execution of that solution
    2. The NPO wants to replace or adopt a certain kind of system (eg a CRM) and then specifies a product selection process they'd executed
    3. The NPO has broad needs, but chooses a specific smaller project to bid out, in hopes of finding a partner for all of its issues

    The common thread in these RFP types is that the NPO is called upon to self-diagnose its problems, and in some cases, to prescribe a solution. In all cases, the RFP fails to offer the complete context to a potential vendor. It's a little like going to a doctor and saying "I have tendonitis, I'm sure of it. Please treat my elbow according to these specification, and I don't wish to discuss what's happening with my shoulder or whether I play tennis." 

    When we get these kinds of RFPs, we may respond with a general information packet and a brief proposal for how we partner with nonprofits to discover, assess, and then address the challenges they're facing.The focus must be on the problems you're trying to solve, not the tools we'll eventually use as part of a comprehensive solution.

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com

    Tech Accelerate


  • 6.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 10, 2015 12:11

    Another +1 to the wisdom in this thread. 

    In my experience, what organizations need most before choosing a toolset is a needs discovery process that generates a documented shared understanding of what the desired outcomes of a project are and how they fit into existing work practices within the org. It's pretty straightforward to extract software requirements from that and go from there to choosing a toolset, but jumping straight to the tool evaluation usually means messy backtracking questions during implementation, and/or a toolset that meets the wrong needs. Adoption suffers and then you've spent all this $$ on something that doesn't get used. 

    ------------------------------
    Lisa Jervis
    Principal Consultant
    Information Ecology, LLC
    Oakland CA

    Tech Accelerate


  • 7.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 10, 2015 13:14

    Some of you were probably wondering why I haven't weighed in here yet. ;-)

    Two things:

    1. I'm not a consultant, I hire them. I appreciate that the consultants in these threads hate RFPs because they get so many bad ones that don't clearly articulate the needs but do require detailed, psychic responses and low, low fixed bids. But I think the solutions are for nonprofits to learn how to do RFPs right, not abandon them. Some key things to get right:

    - Don't write a bad RFP. If necessary, hire consultants to help you assess your needs (business process analysis is key) and/or write it with you. Too costly? Well. for a major purchase, like a CRM, what you invest up front will pay for itself over time. Bad CRM implementations cost a fortune in inefficient use of staff time and lost donation opportunities.

    - Don't ask for a fixed bid on projects that you can't -- or shouldn't - describe with great detail before they occur. This includes CRM implementations, web refreshes, application development. The RFP should look for demonstrable expertise in the skills that are critical to your success, and it should ask for detailed rate information so that you can compare. But asking for a fixed bid on a project with a variable scope is just asking to either pay too much or really piss off and alienate the people doing the critical work for you.

    - Do go with the RFP. Don't buy this "meet us over beer, get friendly, and hire us" pitch that all of the consultants here are making. You want to get proposals from a variety of vendors and you want a level playing field - if one or two of them know a lot more about you than the rest then they'll have the most insightful response. But they might not be the best consultants. Do meet with the finalists and get to know them _after_ you've established that they are suitable for the project. And do extensive reference checks.

    2. It is perfectly acceptable to break a project into two phases. Do a discovery phase with your first choice from the RFP process and, if that goes great, do the full project with them. If not, make sure that the contract allows you to share their discovery deliverables with other consultants and hire your second choice. 

    It's not about making everything easy for you or the consultants.  It's about investing in finding the right match for your organization, so that a big, expensive, mission-critical project is successful. For that to happen, you have to understand what you need before you begin the project, and you have to have a compatible partner, who has the right expertise and understands how to work with you. Formalizing this process with a well-written RFP does far more to insure that success than shmoozing with the consultants and then letting them drive.

    I blog about this stuff a lot here: http://techcafeteria.com/blog/tag/vendors/

    ------------------------------
    Peter Campbell
    CIO
    Legal Services Corporation
    Washington DC

    Tech Accelerate


  • 8.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 11, 2015 07:22

    Great advice from Peter -- thanks!  I've been in the position of hiring the consultants, too, and even with a relatively simple RFP, you can glean information from the responses that you wouldn't get via non-written interactions such as pitch visits or sharing a beer.  Some respondents give you tons of boilerplate about their firms, which is fine, but some really take the time to show they have "listened" (to your text) and respond with specifics about how they can solve your particular problems or meet your particular needs.

    Not that I have anything against a cold beer, and I know Peter doesn't either.  ;-)

    ------------------------------
    Joseph Klem
    VP, Online Strategy
    Urban Land Institute
    Washington DC

    Tech Accelerate


  • 9.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 11, 2015 10:59

    My big takeaway from your post, Peter, is:

    Don't write an RFP for a solution without a clear assessment of your needs.

    In other word, get a diagnosis before trying to fill your prescription. At Sage70, our focus with our clients is on strategic consulting, needs assessment, and organizational development to help answer the question of how an organization can take advantage of technology to drive mission success. It's not the kind of consulting that lends itself well to an RFP.

    I think we all agree that the "beer filter" on its own isn't a good way to pick a vendor, or a client. An RFP is a valuable tool once you know what you need. But let's get one step deeper:

    In the case of an organization that requires a needs assessment from an outside expert, what process should they engage in to select one?

    ------------------------------
    Isaac Shalev
    http://www.sage70.com
    Stamford CT
    @Sage70
    isaac@sage70.com

    Tech Accelerate


  • 10.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 11, 2015 11:15

    A lot depends on the scope of the RFP and magnitude of the project. I've done numerous RFPs or RFIs for consultants to either do some Business Process Analysis (BPA) work (prior to implementing a CRM or Grants Management System) and I've done RFIs for consultants to write an RFP. The RFPs for these initial consults were much simpler to write than the RFPs for the complex data management systems, ranging from two to ten pages. I don't recommend an RFP for every purchase. Our policy states that an RFI or RFP is required for $20k or more, optional at lower costs, and I'll do a simple RFP (or simpler RFI) for projects where I can really benefit there. But I won't expend the effort if I don;t see a return. 

    Example: we did an RFP for BPA consultants and hired excellent ones to thoroughly analyze our data management processes around grants. Then we hired the same consultants (no RFP, because they had the knowledge) to write an RFP for a new grants management system. That paid off phenomenally, because they intimately understood our biggest quirks and challenges. They also wrote the demo scripts for the vendors we selected. We did eight hour demos (with four hour follow-ups for the top contenders) that were tailored to our very particular needs. Our selection process was thorough and well-informed and, yes, a huge amount of work. But this system should last ten or more years and is the biggest, most critical system in the organization.

    We also wanted to hire consultants to do a relatively simple job designing procurement automation in Salesforce. I did a two page RFI, and hired in consultants who got the work done for about $12k. 

    So the investment in the evaluation project has to scale to the financial and operational risk. The challenge is in selling NPO executives as to why this is important (what the applications do for you is more important than which application you select) and why it will save and/or make them money (possibly a lot of money) in the future, as opposed to just winging that CRM selection and deployment.

    ------------------------------
    Peter Campbell
    CIO
    Legal Services Corporation
    Washington DC

    Tech Accelerate


  • 11.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 11, 2015 13:03
    Agreed with all here! I am not at all against RFPs when what is being requested is an actual match to the needs. I just find that too many orgs skip the needs assessment phase (and it shows up in their RFPs) and that is what I advocate for.

    On 11/11/15 8:15 AM, Peter Campbell via NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network wrote:

    NTEN Discuss

      Post New Message
    Re: CRM RFPs
    Reply to Group Reply to Sender
    Peter Campbell
    Nov 11, 2015 11:15 AM
    Peter Campbell

    A lot depends on the scope of the RFP and magnitude of the project. I've done numerous RFPs or RFIs for consultants to either do some Business Process Analysis (BPA) work (prior to implementing a CRM or Grants Management System) and I've done RFIs for consultants to write an RFP. The RFPs for these initial consults were much simpler to write than the RFPs for the complex data management systems, ranging from two to ten pages. I don't recommend an RFP for every purchase. Our policy states that an RFI or RFP is required for $20k or more, optional at lower costs, and I'll do a simple RFP (or simpler RFI) for projects where I can really benefit there. But I won't expend the effort if I don;t see a return. 

    Example: we did an RFP for BPA consultants and hired excellent ones to thoroughly analyze our data management processes around grants. Then we hired the same consultants (no RFP, because they had the knowledge) to write an RFP for a new grants management system. That paid off phenomenally, because they intimately understood our biggest quirks and challenges. They also wrote the demo scripts for the vendors we selected. We did eight hour demos (with four hour follow-ups for the top contenders) that were tailored to our very particular needs. Our selection process was thorough and well-informed and, yes, a huge amount of work. But this system should last ten or more years and is the biggest, most critical system in the organization.

    We also wanted to hire consultants to do a relatively simple job designing procurement automation in Salesforce. I did a two page RFI, and hired in consultants who got the work done for about $12k. 

    So the investment in the evaluation project has to scale to the financial and operational risk. The challenge is in selling NPO executives as to why this is important (what the applications do for you is more important than which application you select) and why it will save and/or make them money (possibly a lot of money) in the future, as opposed to just winging that CRM selection and deployment.

    ------------------------------
    Peter Campbell
    CIO
    Legal Services Corporation
    Washington DC
    ------------------------------
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    02.03.15 Job Board



    Original Message------

    A lot depends on the scope of the RFP and magnitude of the project. I've done numerous RFPs or RFIs for consultants to either do some Business Process Analysis (BPA) work (prior to implementing a CRM or Grants Management System) and I've done RFIs for consultants to write an RFP. The RFPs for these initial consults were much simpler to write than the RFPs for the complex data management systems, ranging from two to ten pages. I don't recommend an RFP for every purchase. Our policy states that an RFI or RFP is required for $20k or more, optional at lower costs, and I'll do a simple RFP (or simpler RFI) for projects where I can really benefit there. But I won't expend the effort if I don;t see a return. 

    Example: we did an RFP for BPA consultants and hired excellent ones to thoroughly analyze our data management processes around grants. Then we hired the same consultants (no RFP, because they had the knowledge) to write an RFP for a new grants management system. That paid off phenomenally, because they intimately understood our biggest quirks and challenges. They also wrote the demo scripts for the vendors we selected. We did eight hour demos (with four hour follow-ups for the top contenders) that were tailored to our very particular needs. Our selection process was thorough and well-informed and, yes, a huge amount of work. But this system should last ten or more years and is the biggest, most critical system in the organization.

    We also wanted to hire consultants to do a relatively simple job designing procurement automation in Salesforce. I did a two page RFI, and hired in consultants who got the work done for about $12k. 

    So the investment in the evaluation project has to scale to the financial and operational risk. The challenge is in selling NPO executives as to why this is important (what the applications do for you is more important than which application you select) and why it will save and/or make them money (possibly a lot of money) in the future, as opposed to just winging that CRM selection and deployment.

    ------------------------------
    Peter Campbell
    CIO
    Legal Services Corporation
    Washington DC
    ------------------------------
    Tech Accelerate


  • 12.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 11, 2015 08:06

    All of these suggestions are good and thoughtful ones.  I agree: often the process is too broad and the budget dedicated to it is too small to properly utilize the RFP process. There are also times when an organization is strong-armed into the RFP process by a board that perceives it is the one and only way. Conversely, some sweetheart deals can be dispensed with through the use of a good RFP process. IT may understand those pros and cons, but navigating those political waters is often best done by an ally in the exec suite.

    ------------------------------
    Grace Barry
    Director of Information Technology
    Family Service League
    Huntington NY

    Tech Accelerate


  • 13.  RE: CRM RFPs

    Posted Nov 09, 2015 09:15

    I couldn't agree more Megan!  RFPs are often very difficult to respond to and rarely provide organizations with the best options for partners (vendors or consultants). Talking with a trusted partner first often leads to a much better final result for any project or engagement!

    ------------------------------
    Karen Collins
    Senior Director, Business Services
    Zuri Group
    Charleston SC

    Tech Accelerate