No RFPS! Why RFPs are bad for business (and how we can stop them)

If finding the perfect client or vendor is a bit like dating, then the RFP system is like online dating — the worst kind, too. We search for "Drupal," get a long list of fuzzy pictures, dry statistics, cliche interests (long walks on the beach, higher conversion rates), and vague specifications. Using this (sometimes misleading) information, we have to show up for our first rendezvous ready to commit to a year-long relationship. Is this true love or a marriage of convenience? Will we find out months later that we don't actually like each other?

The RFP ("request for proposal") process strips vendors of their individuality and creativity, reducing their passion to a PDF overstuffed with boilerplate and little thumbnails of their amazing designers, developers, and project managers. Proposals tell you how good a vendor is at writing proposal, not how good their work is. (How many clients are looking to hire professional proposal writers?)

In this panel, I will outline the strengths and weaknesses of RFPs and discuss creative alternatives. If you are writing an RFP, this is your wake-up call. If you are bidding, come learn about your options. Let's architect a better process. Let's provide a solution that maximizes vendors' capabilities and speaks to clients' requirements — all while building a project team that collaboratively delivers an amazing result. #NoRFPs!

This session will build upon the No RFPs! panels presented at DrupalCon Denver 2012 and SXSW Interactive 2012 and 2013. I will focus much more on what clients who are required to issue RFPs can do to improve their process.

Session objectives

This session will address two audiences simultaneously: the clients who write RFPs or solicit bids, and the vendors who respond to them.

Vendors will be given tools to decide whether responding to RFPs is indeed worth their time. Vendors will also learn alternatives to writing proposals: project plans, strategic consulting, discovery, and other methods for building trust with a client and helping them to articulate their vision.

Clients will learn why establishing vendors relationships outside of an RFP will yield a better match and a higher-quality product. Clients will also learn how their peers navigate procurement, purchasing, and legal departments to engage vendors outside of an RFP. Finally, clients will learn how to create and sell a new process to their stakeholders and institution.

Schedule info





Experience level: 



Todd Nienkerk