Archive for the ‘E-procurement Tools’ Category

Sourcing with RFIs, RFPs, RFQs and Surveys – Part 3 of 5

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

 

Today’s post is our archives at  SafeSourcing

Thursday July 2nd’s post began to uncover the search for information needed to make important sourcing decisions by highlighting the Request For Information (RFI) process.  Today we take a look at the Request For Proposal (RFP) process, how it compares to an RFI and when you need one.  Let’s begin by looking at how the two processes are different.

Project details – Typically you will not have all of the details necessary to provide the suppliers on what it is you are going to do in an RFI.  With an RFP it is necessary to have those details and be able to effectively communicate to the suppliers what the sourcing project is going to look like, complete with the quality and amount of product or service you need and if necessary to what regions of the country/world this project applies.  It takes much more time to prepare an effective RFP than it does for an RFI because you need to supply as much information about what you want as the suppliers do in answering.

Pricing – As touched on above, there is a much more focused request for pricing details in an RFP than in an RFI.  RFIs ask general questions about fees and how a supplier charges for their products or services while an RFP requires specific pricing as it relates to their project.  (i.e. An RFI would ask “What types of fees are associated with buying your product?” an RFP would ask “What are the fees associated with buying 25,000 of your product with these specifications and having it delivered in 3 groups to 5 regions throughout the U.S.?”)

Next steps – The other major way the two differ is in the expected next steps.  With an RFI a customer is looking to gather basic information about companies in order to determine the handful they wish to proceed with seriously considering.  Conversely, in an RFP the goal is to collect much more detailed information about the supplier and their capability to deliver as well as enough project specific pricing and product or service details to allow you to proceed immediately into negotiating a contract.  In some cases there will be a short list of vendors invited to compete further on pricing or present their offering to the customer before the final contract is completed.

Going back to July 1st’s post , in an RFI “we don’t know what we don’t know” and we gather accordingly.  In an RFP, “we KNOW what we don’t know” and that process is the time to collect it from your selected vendors.
Tomorrow we will focus on internal information gathering in the form of surveys, when to use them and what to expect from them.

For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can assist your company with sourcing these goods and services, please contact a Customer Service Representative for more information.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Sourcing with RFIs, RFPs, RFQs and Surveys – Part 2 of 5

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

 

Today’s continuing 5 part repost is from our archives at  SafeSourcing.

According to www.businessdictionary.com, a Request For Information is a “request made typically during the project planning phase where a buyer cannot clearly identify product requirements, specifications, and purchase options. RFIs clearly indicate that award of a contract will not automatically follow.”

RFIs are generally externally facing and have a sole purpose of gathering enough information about a company, their experience and details about their products or services to create a list of suppliers you want to pursue, each of whom has a legitimate chance to be awarded the business.  As mentioned above, this is rarely a final step before the “award of business.”

During an RFI you want to understand who a company is, how long they have been in business, who their customers are, what industries they service and specialize in, how many employees they have dedicated to the business you are looking to award them, as well as details about what they are offering for a good or service.

This stage of the information gathering process would be equivalent to that first trip shopping for a new car; where you let the salesperson know up front “We are just starting to look and gather information.  This is not a decision making day as we have other dealerships to visit before we narrow it down.”  The reason for this is twofold.  First you are doing the suppliers the courtesy of not investing too much time in a process where 30-40% won’t make a short list for round two.  Secondly, it saves time in the initial evaluation of the responses as RFIs generally involve 15-20 (or more) companies.

Looking back at the basic questions from yesterday’s blog, let’s see how they fit within the definition of an RFI.   If the answer to “Is this something you have purchased before?” is “No” and you are looking for a service or the specification for the product is not well defined, an RFI should absolutely be standard practice.

Also, if the answer to “Are there additional features or services you are not currently purchasing that you would like to gather information on from suppliers? “ is “Yes” then investing in the RFI process will save you an incredible amount of time later when you get closer to deciding who you want to gather quotes from.   Going back to “you don’t know what you don’t know”, new services generally fall into the “don’t know” bucket and RFIs can help with that to a large extent.

The object of an RFI is to gather enough information about the project so that you can provide the vendor community enough data to give accurate details and pricing for their involvement in a more focused next step which is usually a Request For Proposal (RFP).

Tomorrow we will cover RFPs, how are they are different than RFIs and when you should use them.

For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can assist your company with this process, please contact a Customer Service Representative for more information.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Sourcing with RFIs, RFPs, RFQs and Surveys – Part 1 of 5

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

 

Today’s post is  the 1st in a 5 part series that is always good to re-share from our Archives at SafeSourcing.

Information rules the world and the sourcing world is no exception.  It is often said “you only know what you know and you don’t know what you don’t know.”  This may seem like a simple concept but it is amazing how often it gets ignored and decisions get made without people having all the facts they need to properly make those decisions.

In this week’s series, we will be exploring how simple information gathering techniques can help make better million dollar decisions and we will finally answer the reoccurring question “What really is the difference between an RFI and RFP and an RFQ and when should I use them?” Before we do that let’s focus on determining what, if any of these things, is needed to make the right purchasing decisions.

When faced with an upcoming purchasing decision there are several factors that need to be determined to know which direction to take should you need to gather additional internal or external information.

  1. Is this something you have purchased before?
  2. If this is not a new purchase, do you have current copies of contracts or agreements for these items or services?
  3. Is it clear who is providing this product or service across your entire company?  (In many cases, the larger the company the hazier the answer to this question becomes.)
  4. Are the current suppliers national companies or is there a mix of regional vendors included?
  5. Is it clear within your organization how much is being spent and is that information broken down by region, state, division or some other fashion?
  6. Are you pleased with the performance and quality of the item(s) or service(s) your incumbent supplies?
  7. Are there additional features or services you are not currently purchasing that you would like to gather information on from suppliers?

These are the basic questions that need to be asked before determining if more information needs to be collected.  In the end all of these questions lead to this, “Do I have what I need to supply information to potential vendors and then properly and fairly evaluate their responses in order to make a purchasing decision?”

Later this week we will dissect the different methods of information gathering as it relates to the questions above, explaining the purpose and expected result of each in order for you to determine, project by project, which will serve you best.

For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can assist your company with this process, please contact a Customer Service Representative for more information.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Here are Five Basic Tips for Writing a Strategic Online Survey!

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

 

Todays post is from our SafeSourcing Archives

Creating an effective, quality written Online Survey that produces the detailed information you require from respondents can be a challenge. In this post, we’ll review 5 quick tips for writing a Strategic Online Survey.

  1. Create a naming convention for the survey and write a brief summarizing introduction. A Survey name and a brief introduction are great ways to give your respondents some detailed background and a frame of reference.
  2. Write a summarizing, brief survey. Begin with an outline of details as to what is important to know for the project. Formulate a question only when the answer will provide data you can use and need.
  3. Think ahead as to how the analysis of the information will look, as in what your end game will look like. This should impact how you format your questions. Statistical reporting may not be able to be performed if your questions to not adhere to the results framework you have pre planned.
  4. Attempt to use closed-ended questions. Limit the number of open-ended questions as these provide and opportunity to the respondent to get off track. Respondents usually have a better understanding of closed-ended questions because they are more straightforward and offer responses they can choose from. An excessive number of open-ended questions can frustrate the respondent and affect the quality of the answers they may provide.
  5. Craft a well-written pertinent subject line for the invitation email you plan on sending with the survey in order to capture your respondents’ attention.

Although these five simple steps are enough to get you started in the right direction reaching out to professionals like SafeSourcing about their SafeSurvey™ tool for additional guidance will guarantee the results you are looking for. A well-written online survey has much higher completion rates and is an effective method for gathering disparate data from differing sources in a format that us usable.

If you’d like to learn more about the SafeSourcing  SafeSurvey™ please contact a SafeSourcing Project Manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments

On the Twelve Days of e-Procurement Christmas.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

 

Todays post is a holiday favorite by our CEO Ron Southard from our SafeSourcing Archives.

  1. On the first day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, a streamlined procurement process.
  2. On the second day of Christmas our e-service provider gave to us, more suppliers to source our goods from.
  3. On the third day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, pricing that works for smallest categories..
  4. On the fourth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, consistent and customized product specifications.
  5. On the fifth day of Christmas our e-procurement service supplier gave to us, more time for other priorities.
  6. On the sixth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, improved quality in our products.
  7. On the seventh day of Christmas our e-procurement service supplier gave to us, better supplier education.
  8. On the eighth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, a simple award of business process.
  9. On the ninth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, support for a better carbon footprint.
  10. On the tenth day of Christmas our e-procurement service supplier gave to us, total category e-procurement.
  11. On the eleventh day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, safer products for our customers and planet.
  12. On the twelfth day of Christmas our e-procurement service provider gave to us, a sustainable e-procurement process and improved corporate net earnings.

Now, ask yourself if all of these goals are accomplished on your company’s behalf by your present e-procurement service provider. If n0t, please contact a SafeSourcing customer services account manager. Click CONTACT US!

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Continued best wishes for a Merry Christmas  the rest of the Happy Holiday Season.

Enterprise Software RFPs

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

 

Todays post is from Ron Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing

We’ve discussed the differences between the RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, and Surveys many time and also touched on why they were different as well as when you would use one.  What we said then was that you typically want to run one of these events when you have an idea about the basic functionality of a product you need but are not sure who can provide it and what else it is they can bring that you didn’t think of.

In many cases, the road to procuring enterprise software will require one of these tools due, in part, to the fact that software can change so quickly, but also because typical decision factors like price play a much smaller role to the features and functionality of the software.

In preparing to make a major software purchase a Request for Information or Proposal can be a great first step.  Here are some things to keep in mind about the solution and the company when preparing for one.

Flexibility – One of the keys in the process of evaluating software solutions and the companies that create them is to gather information about the flexibility of the product.  A focus on how configurable the system is and how well a solution can be fitted with your company’s needs and appearance is an important part to building a good software RFP/RFI.

Reputation – A company’s reputation for delivery used to go a long way in the business world but in the wake of a tougher economy price has begun to gain ground.  In the arena of software, it is still one of the most important factors to evaluate when selecting a software partner.  Building a relationship with companies known for under promising and over delivering on a consistent and referenceable level can be a huge factor in protecting a million dollar investment.

Pricing model – The key here is not in the actual price but how the company prices that is important.  Your company’s needs will dictate the pricing model that benefits your company whether for the enterprise; per seat or per user.  How a software provider prices and what they charge you for are HUGE factors in determining if they are suited for you and your company. The more information you can gather at the RFP/RFI stage as possible is very important.

Support – There is no more important product to verify good support on than software.  As upgrades occur, employees get promoted or leave the company, new employees need training, or issues arise, the level of support a company will commit to is critical to the confidence you can place in them.  On top of this, the more mission critical the functionality the software is to support is for your company, the more important the level of support becomes.  Any software RFP/RFI you create should have a detailed section to determine what level of support you can expect from each vendor.

For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can provide RFIs/RFPs that help you focus on these important factors, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.

We look forward to your comments.

Do you know how a price index plays into e-procurement best practices?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

 

Todays post is a repost by Ron Southard, CEO at SafeSourcing Inc.

From a simplistic perspective an index is a system used to make finding information easier. There are any numbers of indexes or indices available to help procurement knowledge workers insure they are sourcing products at the best possible pricing. The key word here is price as what we will be discussing are specifically price indices.

According to Wikipedia a price index (plural: “price indices” or “price indexes”) is a normalized average (typically a weighted average) of prices for a given class of goods or services in a given region, during a given interval of time. It is a statistic designed to help to compare how these prices, taken as a whole, differ between time periods or geographical locations.

Price indices have several potential uses. For particularly broad indices, the index can be said to measure the economy’s price level or a cost of living. More narrow price indices can help producers with business plans and pricing. Sometimes, they can be useful in helping to guide investment.

Normally an index reflects the current and historical price of a variety of commodities ranging from metals to grain. A common index used in sourcing petroleum products is OPIS or the Oil Price Information Service which you can learn more about by visiting www.opisnet.com.  However in order to drive the best possible fuel pricing there are other dependencies such as whether you are doing spot buys or bulk purchases and these strategies will determine what specific index you would want to review as well as it’s relation to other product information sources such as Platts or the Gulf Coast spot assessments.  This will put you in a better position to determine how to bid the product and also earn a discount relative to the lowest common denominator.

All other commodities have similar sourcing issues dependant on what the highest cost item is in their product makeup. An example here might be the cost of grain in the feeding of cattle or poultry.

Ask you solution provider to explain these tools to you and to recommend how you might use them toward the best outcome.

If you’d like more information, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services Account Manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

Evaluating eProcurement Solutions – Part 5 of 5: Service

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

 

Today’s post is our SafeSourcing Archive!

Strategic sourcing companies each have their own unique offering whether that is based on a price model, category focus, supplier database or some other defining trait, but the overall goal is to help their customers source products and services easier, smarter and with an end result that creates more value than the customer could achieve on its own. Over the past four days we will be looking at some of features and characteristics you should be looking at when evaluating a new or existing sourcing partner. Today we will close out the series by focusing on the one trait that should be examined closer than any of the other five; Service.

Having great data, tools, reporting, or technology will only be as good as the team helping you to run new projects and your partner should be as strong, if not stronger in their customer service offering than anything else they do. Today we will look at a few of the specific areas you should be looking at when evaluating your current or a new strategic sourcing partner.

Experienced – Sourcing experience across dozens of category is not something that every strategic sourcing has. There is a reason why some sourcing partners focus on travel, energy, and logistics only for their customers. Experience in sourcing events from both a consumer, sourcing partner, and supplier side is a big key to understanding the perspective of all the parties involved. This experience helps with the management of the suppliers as well as that of the customer to keep the projects moving and details and communication delivered. Well rounded strategic sourcing companies will have had sourcing experience in IT related products and services, software, warehouse materials and equipment, construction related goods and services, temporary services, For Resell goods, transportation and logistics, commodity goods, and normal indirect spend items to name a few.
Supplier management – The most difficult task in running a sourcing project, outside of collecting the data necessary to run the event, is managing the suppliers during the process. Management begins as soon as suppliers are contacted to participate in the event. Your strategic sourcing partner should be able to assist you with fielding all questions from suppliers, speaking to suppliers on your behalf to get them engaged in the process, handling objections they may have about the process, and training them on how to follow the process and tools with live support. Once a sourcing project begins, your strategic sourcing partner should manage the process and all communications so that your team can be allowed to focus on the important things they will do later. Support should continue through the entire process all the way until the project completes and suppliers have submitted everything requested.

Post event support – In some cases once the sourcing event is completed, handling and communication of the suppliers selected for award goes back to the customer. In many other cases, the sourcing event (RFI, RFP, RFQ) is just the beginning of the evaluation process. Many times samples will need to coordinated, presentations scheduled with the selection committee, scorecards and evaluation materials developed and distributed to the internal decision makers as well as agendas to the suppliers. These are all ways that good strategic sourcing partners stay involved and take the load of the sourcing process off of the customer. Many times the suppliers are used to the customer service member they have been dealing with and having that same person take them all the way through the process is a big advantage to the process going smoothly.

Many things should be looked at when evaluating a strategic sourcing partner and depending on the structure of your department, some characteristics will be more important than others but all should be considered at some point. For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with sourcing projects or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

Evaluating eProcurement Solutions – Part 4 of 5: Tools

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

 

Today’s post is from our SafeSourcing Archives

This week we have been looking at the different characteristics strategic sourcing companies and solutions have that should be evaluated when making a decision as to what is most important to your company. At the beginning of the week we looked at technology, data and reporting capabilities and the different aspects of each and the importance they could play in sourcing projects. Today we will look at the different types of tools strategic sourcing companies can sometimes offer that can make your job as a procurement professional event easier.

Information Gathering – In Tuesday’s blog we discussed the importance of a good supplier database and template library foundation to beginning a sourcing project. This addresses the external data but does not always help explain the internal spend data and specifications especially when the category is a new one to your company. Being able to send electronic surveys to resources within your company in a way that requires very little effort can save a procurement team hours of time in legwork but, more importantly, can ensure that the picture of your spend you are painting for potential suppliers is accurate. Being able to understand who in your company is buying something, what they are buying, how much they historically purchased, how much they expect to purchase and whether they like the current product and supplier are all details which will shape a very successful event and can be easily collected with an online survey tool.

RFx – The concept of moving from Request to Information to Request for Proposal to Request for Quote/Tender is not a foreign one in the procurement industry and virtually every strategic sourcing company offers some type of tool or service to support this flow. Where the differentiator begins to come in is how seamless the flow from one step to another is. Do suppliers need to learn multiple tools? Is it online? Are details from step automatically moved over into the preparation and documentation of the next step? Each step of the RFx process is unique but has common threads that tie each together. Good RFx solutions will tie these threads together in a way that reduces the time it takes run from beginning to end and the amount of repetitive tasks required of the suppliers with each step.

Result Management – The information is gathered, the project is complete and the results are better than you could have expected. The problem is that without the tools to put those results into effect, they become worthless. Being able to manage the results of your sourcing events is considered by many to be more important than the results themselves and can take several different forms. Top begin with is a catalog/ordering/purchase order system that will allow your company to place the orders they need at the new pricing you have negotiated. Implementing a catalog system can also prevent rogue spending from unapproved suppliers based on past history. Another useful solution is a contract management tool to track your contracts and important details and dates, ensuring that the contract will not roll over into a situation that costs you even more money than you saved. Managing both aspects of a new deal are critical to maintaining your project’s success.

Having covered the technical, data and tool aspects of strategic sourcing partners and tools, tomorrow we will conclude with the most important piece of the puzzle which is the service your strategic sourcing partners can offer you that can save your team hundreds of hours and provide experience where you may have none. For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist you or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

Evaluating eProcurement Solutions – Part 3 of 5: Reporting and Audit Trails

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

 

Today’s post is our  SafeSourcing Archives.

Strategic sourcing companies each have their own unique offering whether that is based on a price model, category focus, supplier database or some other defining trait, but the overall goal is to help their customers source products and services easier, smarter and with an end result that creates more value than the customer could achieve on its own. This week we have looked at the importance of data and technology when making a decision on a strategic sourcing partner and today we will be looking at the reporting and audit trail capabilities and how they fit into the mix of successful events. The best supplier research and technology will not be useful without the view of results in a way to make meaningful decisions.

Strong base reports – Every eSourcing solution has a standard set of reporting that they provide their customers when an event is complete. There are certain aspects of this report package which should be present in order to review the most basic details of an outcome. Supplier activity should be captured in a way that timestamps every quote entered in the system and who entered it. This is also part of the audit package described below. Any online notes should be reported on as well as the supplemental documentation many suppliers provide. The final outcome in a detailed and summary view should be provided as well as copies of all of the documents that were involved in the sourcing process. Basic award scenarios and supplier performance during the process should also be included in a standard spreadsheet or executive summary style report.

Capable of additional analysis – As important as the base set of reports you get from event are, the capability of your strategic sourcing partner to be able to provide additional analysis is just as important. There will be times when special circumstances surrounding the event need to be considered, or the way an incumbent factors into an award decision must be reviewed. Your sourcing partner’s ability to provide scorecards, provide additional award scenario details or break down situations where a primary and secondary supplier need to be awarded by location are all realistic and important ways that they can help save your team dozens of hours and allow them to do the other things they need to do for your company.

Audit Packages – There are usually not many times when a company will need an audit trail of what happened during a sourcing project but typically when they do it is of critical importance. So when evaluating technologies or partners make sure they can provide a package that includes copies of all documents and electronic versions of communications that went to any potential supplier. They should be able to provide time stamped documents of all notes and quotes entered into the system as well as who entered them for the supplier. All verbal communication and questions submitted by a supplier to the customer should be captured in a central place that either be accessed by the customer or by the administrators for reporting purposes. This package should be easily available and contain the trail of all communication with the suppliers.

Tomorrow we will look at some of the sourcing tools that are available and being used by many companies. For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist you or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.