In our previous blog, Selecting a S2P Technology Part I – Requirement Gathering, we discussed the steps necessary to gather your requirements and prepare your RFP documentation for a Source-to-Pay (S2P) Technology. In Part II of our blog, we will explore how to go to market for a S2P Technology solution.
With the requirements gathering phase of our S2P Technology selection process complete, it is time to go to market and select an S2P technology provider. While, as sourcing professionals, we should all know how to execute an RFP, there are some specific steps and methodologies that we recommend when running an event for a S2P Technology.
Use Case Development
In the requirements gathering session, you should have created your RFP Documentation including requirements, questions, conditions, etc. In addition to your RFP documentation, we recommend utilization of use cases when selecting a S2P technology. For each module, you will want to develop a use case that includes real world information and data from your organization. A good use case will provide a detailed description of the case along with the data needed to demo the use case.
For example, a great use case to include for a sourcing module is an actual RFP with real data and real supplier responses (change the names of the suppliers to protect confidential information). You can then have the providers show you a relatable example during the demo sessions later in the process. This could include managing an event, bid optimization, or event scoring. Custom Use Cases also ensure that the providers can show you how your information will look and feel in the system, rather than just a generic demo.
It is important to let providers know that if they are down selected, there will be an expectation placed on them to present the use cases to the teams. You should clearly state this in the RFP. As you think through the Demo Day, try to remember to give the providers sufficient time to prepare for the sessions and adequate time on the day of to present the data and requested use cases. A couple of days for a robust use case demo of a full S2P solution is not an unreasonable timeframe.
Selecting Technology Providers
There are many providers of S2P technologies ranging from very small and focused on a particular tool or market to large providers offering fully integrated solutions that serve Fortune 500 companies in multiple verticals. The first step in the process is determining which S2P technology providers you wish to include in your RFP and how many. This is where having an understanding of the S2P technology market and the requirements of your organization becomes important.
When selecting your providers, keep in mind who can meet the majority of your requirements and have strengths in modules that are most important to your organization.
Also, keep in mind that you should limit the number of participants in your event. There is no reason to invite more than 4-5 providers to your event. Prior to distribution of the RFP, you should be able to narrow down the field based on your market research of providers and their potential to meet your requirements. For instance, if you are looking for a provider to offer one seamless end-to-end solution, providers that don’t offer certain modules or functionality might be excluded from the event. Remember, you will have to spend time reading, analyzing, scoring, and discussing all of the bids. To do this right, you should expect to spend a day per supplier response to read, understand, and analyze the submissions. Spending some time to narrow down the field before you go to market will allow you to be more efficient in the end and respectful of providers time and effort.
RFP Documentation and Distribution
Now that you selected suppliers to include in your RFP, you need to distribute the RFP Documentation developed in the Requirements Gathering phase of the project (see Selecting a S2P Technology – Part I Requirements Gathering) along with the Use Cases. Try to give the providers sufficient time to prepare a robust, in depth response to your RFP. For a full S2P technology (upstream and downstream) we recommend allowing 4 – 5 weeks between distribution and RFP due date. This should include scheduling a Q&A session with each provider after distribution to provide feedback to any questions they may have.
You will need to develop a methodology to objectively score the responses from the invited providers. We recommend the steps below:
- Determine who will be scoring the event from your organization. This should primarily consist of your core team and any other critical stakeholders that will be involved in the review of the RFP responses and that will attend the Use Case Demos.
- Determine weighting based on your requirements. This should first be done at a module level and also include other elements such as technology, service, and general categories. An example (note the percentages are just an example of how to rate a project and not a recommendation) is below:
- Sourcing Module – 20%
- Contracts Module – 20%
- Supplier Management – 10%
- P2P Modules – 30%
- Technology – 10%
- Service – 5%
- General – 5%
- After you have established weighting for the modules, you need to establish weighting within the requirements for each module. You likely won’t be able to score every question so you should consider scoring each section within the module.
- Finally, it’s time to score responses. We recommend having two columns to score: the first score would be based solely on the written responses to the RFP and the second column would be a rescore based on anything learned in the On-Site Demo Sessions (discussed below) with an area to note why you are changing the score. Perhaps you saw something in the demo that cleared up a negative perception from the RFP. This methodology allows you to clearly track changes in your score throughout the process.
- Once you have established the scoring methodology, meet with the scorers to ensure understanding of the scoring system and methodology.
- After you have agreement on your scoring weights and methodology, distribute scoring sheets to scorers.
After several weeks of waiting, you are finally getting RFP responses from your invited technology providers. After reviewing them to make sure they are complete, you will need to distribute the responses to the scoring team to review and score. On question we frequently get is what about pricing – do we share it with the team of have them evaluate strictly on the functionality. We would recommend that you do not share the pricing with the entire team at this time. You don’t want people to make assumptions about the organization’s appetite for cost and it can become the sole focus for many people. As the project leader, you should have an idea of the budget and is there are any outliers on cost you can address them without distracting the team.
Evaluate scoring responses based on the RFP documentation with the scoring team. Based on your scoring reviews and discussion of the RFP you will want to down select to two or three suppliers to invite for on-site Use Case Demonstrations
Use Case Demos
Once you have down selected, it is time for the Use Case Demos. Participants should include all of the scorers and any other critical stakeholders. It is important that you do not invite a cast of thousands. You should keep the invitee list to those who understand the requirements, the selection process, and are knowledgeable about the goals of the project. These sessions are not intended to train users or go down rabbit holes but to allow providers to highlight how their tools can help solve your needs through the use cases.
Scorers should be reevaluating their scores based on the Use Case Demos (remember we recommended two columns for scoring – the first for post RFP and the second for Post Use Cases). The revaluation should identify areas where perhaps the RFP response was not clear (resulting in a low score) but the Use Case Demo was strong (resulting in a high score). These are great areas for discussion during the final selection discussions.
Updated Scoring and Final Decision
After Demo Day, you need to reassess the scoring. We encourage you to have healthy debate among your team members to make sure that everyone has their concerns and questions answered. Pay particular attention to areas where scores changed after the Use Case Demos and discuss why the scores changed. Also focus on areas where there are discrepancies in scores. If one person has a module scored lower than everyone else, make sure that they didn’t see something that everyone missed; or if they missed something everyone else saw.
After scoring, demos, and internal debate, you and your team should have a good feel for which solution will best fit your requirements and your organization’s need and you should prepare a final recommendation for management. Prior to going to management with the recommendation, you need to ensure internal alignment with team members of the provider decision.
A complete a financial analysis of the RFP submissions is needed to go along with the final recommendations. We suggest keeping the pricing discussions separate from functionality discussions. Doing this keeps evaluators from focusing on price. You may be willing to pay more for a tool that meets more of your requirements and is a better fit for your organization. Both pricing and ability to meet requirements should play into your final recommendation.
Now that you have gone to market and selected a S2P technology provider, the journey is just beginning. Depending on the scope of your project, implementing and integrating the technology can be a very involved and lengthy process. We highly recommend that you have an implementation partner to guide and/or execute the work. See our blog, Finding Your Procurement Software Implementation Partner and our blog about Preparing for a S2P Deployment to get more information about continuing your project.