I just finished working with a team of folks on an RFP response to do business as an approved vendor in the IT staffing space, and this got me to thinking about the process. I’ve been directly responsible, led, and / or contributed to about a dozen of these types of responses during the past ten years. The client companies generally have most of these characteristics:
- Annual spend on IT staff augmentation services in excess of $100m.
- A formal procurement group and process for securing services.
- A few major centers where most of the IT staffing services are used, as well as ten or more additional locations in various areas of the country.
- One or more of the following business goals: lower cost, improved quality of services delivered (however that’s supposed to be measured), favorable contractual T’s and C’s, etc.
Typically, the evaluation of the RFP response ends up with the client company comparing strict objective factors like price, ability to support the enterprise across the geography, etc. If all goes well, the vendor gets added to “the list” and starts to receive staffing requirements, and goes from there.
What I don’t see a lot of is dialog on how a provider can help make the client organization stronger or more competitive. I would be ecstatic to see a question on an RFP such as:
“How would working with your firm help us be more competitive, realize higher profits, and / or be a better member of the community?”
My observation has been that the most effective business relationships take into consideration a variety of factors over and above things like price, contractual T’s and C’s, and quality of services. In a customer-supplier relationship with a product or service that is relatively mature, there is an implicit assumption that the goods and services delivered will be high quality and cost effective, that working together on the delivery will be seamless, and that issues that come up will be handled in a responsive and appropriate manner.
Doing a good job may get you in the door, but providing added value and making the client better is what defines a true partner. What really helps a client at this level are things like:
- Working jointly with them to streamline their procurement and on boarding process for IT staff. For example, how much time and energy would be saved in hiring managers really understood how to define their needs and write a position requirement?
- Bringing technology insight and business approaches to a client that will help the client achieve a competitive edge.
- Connecting executives and leaders with others who can provide thought leadership.
- Aligning community involvement / charitable efforts with those of the client.
- Sponsoring joint efforts to pilot innovative processes for services procurement.
It is understanding the client’s business and environment so well that you can anticipate their needs and wants, and be positioned to respond to them. We are near or at the point in the IT staffing business that being a strong company with geographic coverage, efficient processes, and competitive pricing is not enough.
Our job in the IT services sector is not just to provide good people. It is really to make our client organizations more effective. The IT services companies who will prosper long term will be the ones who figure this out.