In large organizations, the procurement process for energy management software can be challenging and disappointing. But it doesn't have to be. Putting together a quality Request for Proposal (RFP) can be a valuable team building exercise that sets your organization up for energy management success.
Here’s how to create an energy management software RFP.
Do Your Homework
Most procurements, especially for software, involve some sort of requirements analysis. Basically this involves:
- Assessing the need—what are the issues or problems that you're hoping to solve with the software?
- Describing functionality and capability—what are the software features or functions that will help you solve your problem(s)?
- Defining integration—how will the software be integrated into existing business processes?
A requirements analysis is important because it helps identify opportunities for productive change. This sort of thinking can lead to some very creative synergies. Preparation of the analysis will naturally draw out stakeholders, who will contribute to those synergies in ways that will add momentum to the procurement project.
In the end, your analysis will provide a technical skeleton that will become your RFP. It will probably take the form of a requirements list and/or a set of use cases, and will include details on who will use the software, how it will be used, what goals to accomplish, how software performance will be evaluated, and how and where the different software functions will be integrated into existing workflows.
“If you wish to converse with me,” said Voltaire, “define your terms.”
A quality RFP should include a detailed specifications list. Developing such a list can be one of the most time-consuming tasks associated with software procurement. Thankfully, prospective vendors are often willing to assist with this process, and may be able to supply a list of specifications that only their product will satisfy. Working through such a list is often a valuable exercise, since the process will better acquaint you with the capabilities and limitations of each product.
As you review each specification, make certain to fill in all the necessary details. If you are looking for the vendor to provide web hosting, include it. If you want an unlimited number of users for the software, include it, and so forth.
You’ve probably heard the maxim, “When in doubt, leave it out.” This is NOT good advice to consider when preparing an RFP.
What are the specifications that are most important to you? If you are part of an RFP committee, sit the group down and have each member create his/her wish list for product performance.
At least in the early stages, ask your team to dream big. Encourage feedback like, “Wouldn’t it be great if it could …” Then have them fill in the blank with their answer(s). This is not the time for timidity! Remember, you don't receive if you don't ask.
At some point in the process of preparing your RFP, reality will have to set in. Especially in the software world, functionality comes at a price. As wonderful as your idealized software would be, it probably will never exist in the real world, at least not exactly as you might prefer. This can lead to disappointment, but it doesn’t have to.
Plan for at least one specification review meeting near the end of the RFP development process. Then go down the list and make certain that each specification is detailed, unambiguous, and acceptable, at least to the majority! Use this opportunity to separate “wants” from “needs” and scale back unreasonable expectations.
This can be very helpful in avoiding misunderstanding and disappointment. By drawing a distinction between “must haves” and “options,” you and your chosen vendor can avoid "Specification Creep" down the road that might lead to delays and cost overruns. And the “options” category may provide valuable in negotiations during the vendor selection process!
Just Do It
One final word of advice—don’t shortchange the RFP preparation process. Just because a boilerplate is out there somewhere, don’t just copy it and hope for the best. A template can begin the process, but only you and your team can complete it. Preparing an RFP is an important part of the energy management software procurement process. The very act of preparing a quality Request for Proposal encourages collaboration and consensus—the kind of teamwork that will be vital for you to reap the full benefits of energy management software.