They can be three sentences long or 300 pages. They can be broadcast across the supplier landscape or limited to a shortlist of preferred vendors. Some public companies and regulated utilities are required to make them public, but most companies prefer to issue them on the QT.
Regardless, most companies put out request for proposals (RFPs) when they're prepared to make major upgrades and spend some serious money. Like being executed at dawn, many RFP writers note that such documents also focus the mind wonderfully. In theory, RFPs help customers get exactly what they want and provide leverage when a vendor comes up short.
Done right, RFPs can also save storage customers gobs of money. (See RFP Saves AOL $25M.) But whether you're overhauling your data center or just looking to replace as much direct attached storage as you can, an RFP can also save time and headaches. So with all that in mind, here are some ways to further refine how you deal with prospective suppliers.
Know Exactly What You're Asking for
Even at the RFP design phase, users should not get too bogged down in technology, warns Rudy Rosefort, vice president of management information systems at the Empire State Development Corp. "There's no such thing as an IT project, there's only business projects with IT initiatives," he says. "You want to align your business with your IT before you even issue an RFP."