We've had a busy start to 2017, particularly in the business development area, working on a number of client RFP's/RFI's (Request for Price / Request for Information).
If you’re not familiar with these then this is where a client will contact us with a very detailed questionnaire about our software tools which helps them narrow down a list of potential solution providers in a competitive tender.
The questionnaire will typically have 200-300 questions in it covering a wide range of areas about the tools functionality, our service model and technical considerations. When I reflected on the content of these questionnaires the following becomes very apparent:
- The questions typically go into a lot of depth into areas that the client is already doing a good job of and understands well – they want to make sure the tool will do what they currently do.
- Other important areas of the promotional management process are completely absent – they don’t know what they don’t know.
The issue with the above is that you end up looking for a tool which can replicate the good things you are already doing just faster and you don’t look to understand the areas you need to improve on where there is likely to be significant gains to be made.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
– Henry Ford
We find this is very much confirmed at the presentation stage where we get a lot of in depth questions on how the tool will replicate current specific internal processes such as demand planning, investment approvals and deductions management but fewer questions around, how will this help us run more profitable promotions? how will this help us understand which are our best mechanics? and how will this improve our customer relationships?
The other issue we see is where clients will focus initial deployments in a specific area with a view delivering other areas in years 2-3. e.g. In 2017 we want to address TPM then we’ll look at TPO in 2018. The challenge here is that you can end up with a very misshaped process with one area firing on all cylinders but the others letting you down – bit like a car with amazing rear wheels but no steering wheel.
So how can you avoid this?
- Spend some initial time with a good provider and get them to talk to you about how they see the whole TPM/TPO/TPx space.
- From this draw up a list of all the areas that are relevant for your business and assess where your current strengths and weaknesses are (a good provider will help you with this)
- Draw up a plan of where you want to improve making sure it’s balanced and delivers across all areas of the promotional management process.
- Then draw up your questionnaire making sure you have focussed questions on all of the relevant areas and don’t try to just replicate what you are currently doing – new ideas could lead to even bigger improvements.
The key take out here, is that whether you are reviewing your current processes or embarking on a process to find a new TPx tool, that Step 1 should be to rigorously understand where you are today and draw up a plan to progress in all areas, not just the ones you are already good at.
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