How to write a great digital workspace RFP and achieve positive change

At Deptive, we like to surround ourselves with others who are experts in their fields. One of those experts is Jits Doolabh from Fr@nk, who help businesses navigate change in terms of IT transformation. In this guest blog, he looks at why writing a good digital workspace RFP is so important – and how we should all be writing them.

A good RFP, or request for proposal, is vital. It’s the invite you’re sending out to the market declaring your intent; it’s the way you invite IT providers to participate in the exciting opportunity that you’re about to embark on. It’s your best effort to entice the best people in the market and find the right partner for your IT transformation project. Unfortunately, too many businesses tend to be over prescriptive in their RFPs. They include a long list of requirements, almost dictating the solution. In trying to describe what they want, they end up forgoing the innovation that’s out there in the marketplace. So how can you create an RFP that attracts the best possible partners – and gets you the best solution?

Make it about outcomes – not solutions 

By focusing your RFP on the outcomes you’re wanting to achieve – as opposed to the specific solution you want – you’ll attract far more creative and innovative proposals.

Normally when working with clients on RFPs, we’ll get them to provide one single statement that wraps the process up. For example: ‘Any app, any device, anywhere’ or ‘Secure and flexible access to our workplace from anywhere.’ This gives us the high-level view of what they’re trying to achieve and we can then build outcomes from there, whether those are around mobility, security, applications, devices, or more.

Once we turned our RFPs to be outcomes-based, we began getting back more than we ever expected. It showed us what’s available and opened our eyes to what we could actually do. Instead of our clients driving the solutions, we were asking the experts in technology to tell us which solutions to use and getting them to link the technology back to outcomes. The impact was huge – increased confidence in senior stakeholders, better solutions, and a clearer view of which partners fit with the organisation.

At the most basic level, ensure you know the problem you’re trying to solve and be clear on what your objective is. In doing this, you’ll be able to judge all proposals and suggested solutions based on how they’ll solve your problem, meet your objectives, or give you the outcomes you’re looking for.

Be selective in what you change

In designing a digital workspace based on the outcomes you’re wanting to get, you’ll be able to make decisions about which part of your digital offerings should change and which you should continue to use.

We play in the change space, covering every aspect from the formulation of an idea right through to realising the benefits from that idea. However, what we realised early on is that all improvement is change – but not all change is improvement.

When putting together an RFP, and looking at the proposals that result from the RFP, it’s vital that you assess three things:

  1. Should things actually change? Will the outcomes we’re looking to achieve actually be an improvement?
  2. What should we change? Sometimes parts of your technology are good – they can be leveraged or modified to tie in with the new solutions, while making change adoption easier for those used to legacy or current systems.
  3. What does the future look like? What does awesome look like for you? What is the tech landscape that will support this vision of awesome, and how do we get there?

Working through this process enables you to get everyone across the organisation aligned on the problem you’re trying to solve, which gives you direction on the high-level implementation steps. It gives you a clear focus of what you will be getting in the future.

Remember – you’re on a journey

Any IT transformation is a journey – not a one-off ‘set and forget’ project. In the old days, you may have come in and changed desktops and then forgotten about them until they stopped working. Change could be expensive, but only came round once every few years.

With digital workspaces though, so much more choice opens up. Platforms such as Microsoft continue to evolve – and so should your business. What you’re embarking on is not a ‘set and forget’ project – it’s setting up a new way of working. One that allows and fosters collaboration, supported by technology. As technology matures and can do more, you should also expect that the way your people will collaborate and work will also change.

Now, it’s easy to update everyone’s apps remotely. Security can be done automatically by other apps. Costs can be based on the number of users, not on the cost of bespoke software. Digital transformation is no longer a burden on IT – instead, having a strong digital workspace frees IT up.

Ensure your RFP reflects the fact that you’re on a journey and you want to build ongoing partnerships with those who can help you succeed along that journey.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

Requesting iterative implementation is one of the main things we advise every client to include in any RFP. It makes change easier, means you can pivot and adjust depending on what works for your organisation, and ensures you are better able to make the solution your own.

When delivering iteratively, you need to consider two things:

  1. How will your people access legacy systems while consuming the new ones?
  2. How will you migrate legacy services from the old consumption model to your new one?

Delivering iteratively means you don’t have to solve the entire problem in one go. There may be some new apps that people will easily incorporate into their current way of working – perhaps those can be implemented initially so that your people get used to using them first. Or perhaps there’s a significant system that will completely change the way you work – perhaps that needs change management wrapped around it, or to be implemented with one team at a time.

Choosing a digital workspace IT partner

Other than getting organisations to focus on outcomes, not solutions, in their RFPs, there’s one other key thing we’d love everyone to change – how businesses choose their IT partners.

In a perfect world, when writing an RFP you wouldn’t request a full proposal immediately. Instead, you’d ask for expressions of interest or a short pitch – then you’d create a shortlist. At the shortlist stage is where things would become more interactive. Rather than a document, this stage should be about making an assessment of their solution, approach, staff, and more.

So what should you consider once you’ve shortlisted potential IT partners?

  1. Is there a good match between your culture and the provider’s culture?
  2. Their technology might be good, but do they suit your working style? I.e. are they agile when you’re more traditional or vice versa?
  3. How will their solutions achieve the outcomes you’re aiming for?

You’re always better off working with people who align with you. It’s just as important (if not more) to understand who a provider is and how they work as it is to understand what their solution is. By taking the time to get to know them, rather than just their solution, you’ll achieve better communication, more collaboration, a more pleasant working environment – and a more appropriate solution for your organisation.

So when it comes to RFPs, it pays to remember: be clear on the purpose of your RFP and the outcomes you want to achieve, be clear on your journey and definition of awesome, and choose a partner who’s going to support you – not just drop a solution.

Got some questions? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Deptive, or contact Jits from Fr@nk.

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