January 13, 2013

The RFP/RFI process can be daunting. The following is a checklist that will help any organization with this process.

How soon before my contracts expire should I start preparing for the new negotiation?

We recommend at least 6 months prior to the contract expiration to allow plenty of time for revisions and analysis. Depending on the size of your network and the complexity of services involved, 12 months is not out of the question. This helps avoid last minute decisions which can cause installation issues during turn up and billing issues post turn up because everyone involved is trying to move things too quickly.

What are some common issues we may encounter?

One of the most common issues we see in this process is that the client will choose too many vendors to participate in the process. We recommend that you research the vendors you feel are the best fit for the services being considered and limit the bid to 4 companies or less. Many nonprofit organizations cannot limit vendors, but if it is possible, we recommend this approach.
Another common issue is that the vendor will not respond fully or responses are not in the same format so they are difficult to analyze. We recommend that each vendor be required to answer the RFP FULLY or be removed from the selection process. Also, they must be required to complete the templates and comply with the format provided WITHOUT EDITIING them.

What is the average savings potential I should expect?

A minimum of 10% savings should be expected. There are always variables such as speed upgrades that may affect the bottom line number, but those also increase the value. Typically our clients see a 25-30% savings when we manage the RFP process.

What type of SLA's should I ask for?

We recommend asking for something more than just the 5 9’s. These are the standards. However, many of them do not have a lot of teeth behind the promise. The vendor should be required to provide examples of how much credit you will receive in the event of an outage. If you feel that their numbers are not fair or do not compensate well, ask for specialized SLA’s that meet your needs.

Which vendors should be considered?

First evaluate your network. If you need international presence, you must choose vendors who can support the network. If you are national, we recommend that you require the vendor to provide their network map and address any areas where a third party carrier may be the primary. All carriers share networks at some level, so it is important to understand certain service areas that may cause problems.

How do I negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract?

Make sure that you can dispute any incorrect invoice for a fair period. Many carriers add a 30 day clause that makes is nearly impossible to get credits or dispute charges if they are not caught almost immediately. This limits and protects the carrier because an issue can go on for years and they are only required to issue a 30 day credit. We recommend that a dispute can be opened and fully credited to the maximum extent it affects the business. It is important not to expect that the tariff will protect you in this circumstance.

These are just a few of the many items we consider when moving through the RFP process. As responders and creators of RFP’s we are familiar with the issues you will face on both sides.

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