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    Alternatives to Tenders

    The typical tender is expensive and time-consuming both to prepare and to respond to. For the customer, a tender can typically take six months from start to finish.

    • SalesFix’s new National Sales Manager looks at a better way to choose a partner for your next technology project.

      If you work in the technology sector, chances are you’ve been involved in a tender process in some form or other. Maybe you’ve been the customer, looking for a solution to your business problems. Maybe you’ve been the vendor looking to deploy what you believe to be the best thing since sliced bread, or maybe you’ve been the consultant helping to manage the process. Whatever your role, chances are you’ve not enjoyed the process.

      I’ve been on both the client and vendor sides of the table. As the vendor, I used to like tenders. Afterall, I once made almost my whole years’ sales target by responding to tenders. Mind you, I’m good at exams. I can read a question and understand what it is I think the examiner is after in a response. The same is true of a tender.

      The challenges of pursuing a Tender

      Over the years however, I’ve changed my mind. The typical tender is expensive and time-consuming both to prepare and to respond to. For the customer, a tender can typically take six months from start to finish, if not more, with hundreds of requirements painstakingly crafted. By the time you go out to tender, chances are a lot of those requirements will have changed, and even if they haven’t, they will need to be reexamined once the project actually kicks off and you get into a discovery phase.

      For a vendor, responding to a large tender can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

      But this isn’t a blog about why tenders aren’t the best way to go about things, there’s plenty of points of view about that on the interwebs which I’ll let you discover at your leisure. No, this blog is about the alternatives and options you might like to consider.

      What are your goals when presenting a tender?

      When you go out to tender, you’re typically looking to establish these things:

      • The most appropriate technology solution for your organisation
      • The best partner to work with to deliver that solution
      • How much it’s all going to cost

      What does a tender tell you?

      • How well a team of people can write
      • That’s about it!

      I tried to think of some other points but I couldn’t. So what’s the alternative?

      An Alternative Approach

      Imagine you’ve got 500 requirements defined that describe exactly what your new platform needs to do. Those requirements are likely to be based on your current systems and processes. Chances are, if you’re going out to tender to solve a business problem (and who isn’t, no one goes out to tender just to get a shiny new technology toy) then what you think you need isn’t actually what you need. Throughout the process of implementation, you’ll revise your processes, and the technology you choose will have out of the box features that will deliver those processes in a different way.

      So how do you choose the right technology?

      What really matters? Well there’s probably just a handful of simple criteria that you could use to narrow down your choice:

      • Cloud based or on premise?
      • Is there a good track record of on-going innovation so that the solution you pick keeps pace with changes in your business?
      • Is mobility key?
      • Do you need to be able to make minor enhancements?
      • Do you need a solution that has industry-specific options and a good track record in your sector?

      Based on your answers to the above, you could probably narrow down your search to just 2-3 options. Then what?

      Let’s imagine your three choices are:

      • Salesforce (of course)
      • Microsoft Dynamics (if you have to)
      • An industry-specific solution if there is one

      Firstly, find a partner that delivers each of these pieces of technology, preferably with experience in your sector. Engage with those partners and define something that can be delivered in a month. Call it a proof of concept, MVP, a clever widget….whatever you like as it doesn’t really matter. The point here is to find out what it’s like to work with the technology and the partner.

      Now here’s the clever bit, after a month you’re left with a functioning solution you can use as a base when you’ve actually made a choice.

      A key part of this is paying the partners to deliver. The money you’ve saved in not going out to tender would easily cover the consulting costs for 2-3 partners to work with you for a month. And by putting your money where your mouth is, you’re giving a good sign to the partners that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

      There are so many benefits to this alternative including:

      • You get to see what working with each partner is like.
      • You’ll get to see the solution in action, even get your hands on it for playing around with.
      • You’ll finish up with a product you can then build on.
      • The partner will have a much clearer understanding of you, your business and what you’re trying to achieve.
      • The partner will be better able to make suggestions about future plans, rather than just moving forward with pre-defined requirements and ideas.
      • You’ll already have formed a working relationship and gone through the storming phase of working.

      As more and more organisations move towards agile delivery models, the tender really is becoming obsolete. Have a think about some alternatives, this is just one!

      Nicole joined SalesFix as National Sales Manager in September 2019. She’s been playing with Salesforce since 2008, when she was responsible for rolling out Salesforce for a not-for-profit in London. In 2009 she moved to Australia and into the consulting sector. Since then she has worked with a variety of Salesforce Partners in delivery and sales roles.