I recently started conducting postmortems on RFP that we lost to figure out what the team is doing well and where we are falling short in our business development efforts. They consist of a short scripted interview with the prospective client and are held only once we’re not in contention for the business (see previous post for my list of postmortem questions).
In this post, I wanted to address the lessons that I learned from the technology team’s point of view. These are my findings from some of the most recent postmortems:
ISSUE #1: The tech team failed to align with client on a solution. During a Q&A session, the client expressed frustration with their current Web Content Management (WCM) platform. They were using a proprietary platform that made them feel “locked in” with the vendor — they couldn’t take their data and leave. In our response, we focused on an open-source platform because of the inherit data migration flexibility — that’s the kind of flexibility that seemed critical for both the initial transition to the new platform but also for a future transition, which could be relevant in the event that the client outgrows the platform in say 5 – 7 years. In the postmortem, we learned that the client was still considering vendors with proprietary platforms.
- LESSON: Technologists must confirm that their solution is a fit.
ISSUE #2: The tech team failed to express our point of view. During an in-person interview, a junior developer failed to state their preference for a specific customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Even though they had a go-to platform, they chose to rattle off the names of platforms that they used in the past and said that it “just depends.” In the postmortem, the client said that the indecisiveness made them feel like we haven’t done our homework.
- LESSON: Technologists need to embrace their position of leadership and become more comfortable making a suggestion based on what they know.
ISSUE #3: The tech team failed to tell a complete story. In a recent written response to an RFP, I explain how users in the marketing department could easily populate content in the WCM platform using a robust administration tool. But I failed to explain how the same content could simply appear on different devices and screen sizes without much manipulation. I knew that WCM platform could just do that. In the postmortem, the client said that they weren’t aware of both functionalities.
- LESSON: Technologists are cursed by the gift of knowledge — always be explicit!
ISSUE #4: The tech team must be the challenger. In almost every RFP, I hear that we are not like everyone else. Clients commonly say that they rely on us because we have the “big brains” team — our developers tend to look for multiple ways to solve the problem. They may not agree with the solution that marketing is requesting but they won’t just say no.
- LESSON: Technologist need to always think of alternative paths to the problem — “no” is not the answer.
As you can see, the feedback isn’t necessarily all bad. Seeing that CMO’s will outspend CIOs on Technology by 2017, the tech team must adjust to being front and center. The days of the working behind the scenes are numbered.
What additional lessons have you learned from an RFP that you’ve lost?