Intranets are the next big thing in the tech business world. What was once considered a dying platform has now seen a true Renaissance, inspired by innovative Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors. Implementing intranet software that is integrated, features social networking, has a mobile app option, and that can house all of your data will digitally transform your workplace. You are going to see big payoffs in the areas of employee engagement and productivity, streamlining data, content relevancy and creation, and workplace collaboration.
You’ve done your research and have decided an intranet solution is the right option for your business. You have management buy-in and received a notion of a budget. Now you’re ready to reach out to vendors. But what’s the best way to go about this task? You need to be strategic in your intranet software adoption process, from start to finish. The way to get off on the right foot in your intranet strategy is to create a well-crafted Request for Proposal (RFP). This is going to be the foundation of your strategic intranet approach, and when done well you can use it as a guideline for your entire adoption process. As a bonus, if you master the RFP process you’ll have a template that you can use whenever you need to contact a vendor for completely different projects.
So, if a good start is crucial, how can you make sure you craft your RFP well? No worries, we have your back. We’ll lay out the important steps to take before drafting your intranet RFP, and then give insight into the way that you can make sure you get your proposal right the first time.
Step 1: do your research to understand the landscape
One of the best things you can do before starting your intranet RFP is to do your research. Look into all the potential vendors and figure out who you want to target. Add any eye-catching vendors to a list and contact them with some questions beforehand. This will give you a better idea of if they’re a good fit for your enterprise. See if they offer any sample documents that you can format your RFP around, or that could help guide your analysis process. But don’t limit yourself. Casting a wide net and giving the up-and-coming intranet software companies a chance to compete will increase the chances of you finding that perfect solution. Remember: innovation starts small.
After doing your vendor research, look into the layouts of intranet RFPs to figure out what kind of style or angle you want to use in your approach. When writing an RFP, it’s better for you to lay out the results you want to see and let the provider’s experts decide what the best intranet strategy will be for your enterprise. Chuck Wilson, Executive Director of the NSCA advises those writing RFPs who do not have the technical background to keep it simple. "Just focus on performance and work results."
Do you have an understanding of who you want to target with your intranet RFPs? And do you feel like you have a grip on RFP formatting (see outline below)? Then it’s time for the next phase. Now you can start your internal business analysis to decide exactly what performance and work results you want to focus on in your intranet strategy.
Here is a general outline for what needs to be covered in your intranet RFP:
Intranet goals and target audience
Scope of work and deliverables
Technical equipment requirements
List of intranet requirements
Criteria for selection
Format & proposal timeline
Point contact person for project
Step 2: running a needs,- and SWOT analysis to understand your own context
The main content of your intranet RFP should be driven by your list of requirements. In order to come up with a complete and organized list of requirements, you will need to run a needs and SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis to realistically and objectively assess your business goals for this intranet software implementation.
There are different approaches to a needs analysis, but what is most important to remember in an intranet-needs analysis is that your end-users are the most valuable voice in the discussion, because they are the ones who will decide the intranet’s success. A SWOT of your current intranet – or internal collaboration system – will give you a good overview of the general direction your intranet needs to head in, but coupling this analysis with a needs analysis technique such as surveys, focus groups, staff and stakeholder interviews, workplace observation, contextual inquiry, and/or task analysis is going to give you a much more holistic view of your intranet needs. This will also be an organic way to start the conversation of intranet implementation in the workplace and help begin the process of choosing your internal decision-making team.
When analyzing your results, remember to focus more on the actual problems and needs you want the vendor to meet, rather than trying to come up with what you think will be the best solution. New Media Campaigns recommends articulating the issues well in your intranet RFP: “There may be all kinds of solutions available that will meet your needs better than what you have in mind and web professionals can suggest solutions you may not have thought of yet. By focusing more on the job to be done, it encourages the responder to think outside the box.” And remember to let the employees guide those specific needs.
Step 3: narrow the list down to needs vs. wants (form a clear comparison & selection criteria)
After conducting your needs analysis, you will need to collect the data in a way that helps you create a clear intranet strategy. Your requirements are going to be the focal point of your RFP, so you will want to be as concise and direct as possible. The first step in this process is to distinguish your absolute “needs and must-haves” from your “wants” in intranet software. This gives your vendor an idea of your priorities, so they can assess what they need to focus on the most in your intranet strategy rather than wasting time building intranet software around something you don’t really need.
John Uder, business development manager for software deployment agency AVF Consulting, suggests creating an RFP-requirements spreadsheet. Especially since an RFP-requirements list can contain anywhere between 800 to 1,000 line items. This spreadsheet can also be a helpful document to attach to your RFP because it allows vendors to add in their responses directly and can help you stay organized and compare responses. Then, after all the responses are added in, you will have your own side-by-side vendor comparison list.
After you create this list, you need to be able to put those needs and wants into words. The more clearly and concisely you can state your requirements, the more likely you will be able to get them. Try to quantify requirements whenever possible, be as specific as possible and always keep in mind the overall purpose of an intranet RFP. The Buyer’s Guide to Intranet Projects defines that purpose as “providing the customer and the vendor with a mutual understanding of what is being purchased and sold. Requests for proposals should clearly define the expected final result and what tasks are expected of the vendor.”
Step 4: identify an internal decision-making team
You’ve done your research, compiled your list, and now it’s time to build your team. You’re going to need a solid team of people from across the board that can help you along the intranet software implementation process, from start to finish. The people you want to get involved in this undertaking are key stakeholders, organizational leadership, and advisors. You can organize this however you like, but all of those people need to have a voice in the process. The first thing you need to do with them is to assess the intranet project’s boundaries. Figure out the constraints on this project such as budget, hard deadlines, and features they have deemed non-negotiables from your requirements list (or see if you need to add to it).
Once you have your team and your larger project boundaries, you need to get more specific on forming your RFP goals that will form your intranet strategy. It also determines how you are going to analyze your proposal responses. Meet with them and decide on an overall scoring system to rate and rank potential vendors. Figure out the “deal breakers” that will help eliminate vendors and clearly define your evaluation categories (i.e. implementation time, security, integration capacity, etc.). Be sure to make this an ongoing conversation with your team so they know that this is a collaborative, team endeavor.
You also want to be very clear on identifying roles and responsibilities within your decision-making team. Such roles could include project manager, intranet software/IT expert, evaluators, and others – it will differ per organization. Make sure everyone knows who to report to. You may also want to include the RFP-proposal writers in this team and define their roles as well.
Step 5: define requirements and submission guidelines for vendors
Between the results of your intranet-needs analysis, your needs and wants list, and the information decided upon by your team, you should be able to now build and clearly define your requirements. Like we said before, the requirements section is going to be the bulk of your intranet RFP, so this is where you will want to focus your energy. The purpose of going through this RFP process could be seen as a way to better understand and document your intranet needs. This mindset will turn your ‘simple’ RFP document into an intranet strategy – something you can always refer to, even far beyond the implementation process.
When defining your requirements, you want to make sure that you are including the needs from all key departments. For example, a ‘Helpdesk’ area for IT, an easy platform for Sales and Marketing to share new products or customer testimonies, or an employee directory for your remote workers.
You will also want to think of your requirements in the context of the end-users – your employees. This helps you communicate more effectively with your vendor when it comes to features and functions specific to your business. If brand consistency is important to your business, Marketing may want a version-control feature so that the branded documents they upload are always the latest version, eliminating duplicates. Play around with defining your intranet requirements in a way that is going to get you exactly what you want from your vendor. Remember that, next to user-friendliness, intranet use is determined by the value it adds to the daily lives of employees.
Finally, make sure you decide on clear guidelines for submission from your vendors. These are unconditional. They ensure that vendors only offer solutions that match your needs. A deadline for the proposal return is necessary, as well as how you would like it to be formatted and received. Other than that, you can ask for references to vendor clients that dealt with similar needs, or you can ask for specific technologies to be used. The possibilities are endless, you just need to narrow down what is most important for your enterprise.
Intranet RFP “Dos and Don'ts”: getting it right the first time
Now that you have the big picture laid out, the actual writing begins. Here are some dos and don’ts for your intranet RFP.
Look at sample RPFs provided by vendors
Format your requirements in a way that articulates the problem to the vendor
Phrase your requirements in such a way that the business context is always clear
Use inclusive language that invites the vendor to collaborate with you. Use words like ‘partner’, ‘experience’, and ‘cooperation’ instead of ‘vendor’, ‘features’ and ‘buyer-supplier relationship’.
Include clear, precise deadlines for the final proposal and intranet implementation
Be as specific and detailed as possible whenever possible
Keep it as concise as possible without skipping on information
Provide an electronic submission response option
List the terms for training
Include any incomplete lists or charts
Focus too much on the equipment, technology, or suggested solutions
Make it unnecessarily long
Use generic questions or language that will not let the vendors know what your needs are
Make your solution requirements unattainable or unrealistic to vendors
Give unrealistic deadlines for vendors
Expect vendors to know what you will need based on vague requirements
If you do your internal work and evaluations before sitting down to write out your intranet RFP, then you will already be set up for success. When writing, make sure you keep the end goals in mind and remember your audience. If you can come up with a document you are proud of, something that clearly lays out your intranet strategy, then you should have a comprehensive guide to follow throughout the intranet software purchasing, implementing, and adoption process. It will even serve you post-launch.