A successful contracting process is the result of understanding internal decision-making requirements and effective communication between all involved parties. It’s easy to get delayed, but you need to stay on track. Being timely with awards means:
- Avoiding service interruptions
- Not missing out on savings opportunities
- Protecting your reputation as a responsive buyer so vendors will be less likely to try to take advantage in future negotiations
Here are five ways you can avoid typical delays in awarding contracts:
1. Define the Decision-Making Process in the Beginning, not the End
You can save weeks or even months in a sourcing cycle by developing your voting/award process and supporting evaluation forms simultaneously with the development of your RFP documents. It’s still going to take time, but if you do it upfront, you won’t lose time on the back end – in those critical days when vendors are awaiting the award.
Spend the time early on working out how a proposal should be evaluated and how the award should be made. And, by fleshing out key decision criteria early on, you’ll be able to incorporate those criteria in your service level requirements. If you’re working with key stakeholders, get them to help define the evaluation criteria before the RFPs go out.
2. Get Your Decision Makers On Board Early
Uninformed or under-informed decision makers are often the source of delays that happen just before it’s time to make an award. Almost nothing slows the award process more than when a decision maker says something like, “I didn’t know that was my job,” or “You should have told me sooner,” or “The deadline wasn’t clear.”
Avoid all that by providing them with an Affirmation of Commitment document early on that outlines the process clearly and informs them of their responsibilities. Typical decision maker responsibilities include participating in all scheduled meetings, identifying key service level requirements, reviewing supplier’s final proposals, and completing the necessary award/evaluation documents by the defined deadlines. If you can, take it step further and get them to sign the Affirmation document. If your decision makers know what’s expected of them up front, it’s more likely they’ll be inclined to participate, avoiding delays.
3. Build a Timeline, Make it Real
It’s important to get on everyone’s calendar weeks or months in advance. Take time to figure out when you will review the results of the negotiations (analysis), when the evaluation forms need to be completed, and how much time will be given to allow the decision makers to ask questions regarding supplier proposals. Be sure to factor in any other steps that may need to occur: Will there be presentations from the finalists? Demos? Even if you aren’t sure, you can build time in early to accommodate those things if they need to happen.
The timeline should clearly articulate when in-person or conference call meetings need to take place, and calendar invitations should be submitted immediately upon approval of the timeline. Scheduling ahead of time is one way to keep your project on track, instead of wasting weeks trying to find a time where 20 different people can all meet, with minimal notice. It might be helpful to work backward from the date you want to make the award. By giving your decision makers an up-front understanding of the timing for each step, you’ll avoid calling a last minute meeting where only half of your decision makers are able to attend.
4. Get The Scope of Work Right the First Time
It can be time-consuming, but in the end, having the Scope of Work (SOW) just the way you want it to begin with saves tons of time later. Too often, service issues are raised after an award is made, and when that happens, it’s like having to renegotiate the RFP all over again. There are two key steps to take to avoid that:
Reverse engineer your contract
The odds are you are going to negotiate a new contract for a service you already have in place, which means you already have a contract with your incumbent. A great starting point in defining a complete scope of work is to start with the service levels already defined in your existing contract and reverse engineer that information into RFP requirements that the supplier must address. It’s easier to build from what you already know, and then, you can add things that cover new requirements or address past performance issues.
Rely on your committee
Your committee should already be made up of people who are already familiar with the existing contract and deal with the services on a day-to-day basis. Let them guide the SOW by asking them questions about their experience with the service, how their needs have evolved and what things they’d like to see improvement on. Use what you learn to define an SOW in the beginning that represents all needs related to the service. That will help you to avoid having these issues arise later forcing you to renegotiate during the contracting phase.
5. Include Required Contracting Documents in the RFP
Every system has its own set of required documentation that must be gathered before a contract can awarded. You can save weeks of time by having suppliers respond to your system’s required documents during the RFP process rather than asking for them on the back-end. Is there an NDA that needs to be signed, for example? Include it with the RFP and require suppliers to provide it with their response. Make failure to respond to the required documents a disqualifying factor, and you’ll have everything you need from the supplier at the moment you wish to make an award. Work with your legal department to ensure you’ve included everything that will be required.
Planning ahead and communicating can make your process go much, much faster. And once you’ve got a system in place, you can replicate it easily.