When issuing a request for proposal (RFP) for a transportation management system (TMS), shippers often overlook implementation/change management issues that are critical to the project’s success. Last week’s blog post, “The Glaring Information Gap in RFPs,” explained why these challenges need to be addressed in RFPs. The focus of this post is on the types of RFP questions that shippers can ask in order to elicit vital feedback on TMS change management challenges.
Here are five areas of inquiry pertaining to TMC change management that should be a part of every RFP.
What are your priorities?
This might seem like an obvious question, but it is a critical piece of effective RFPs that often does not receive enough attention. Clearly indicating your high-priority capabilities enables suppliers to pay particular attention to the features that support your goals. Indicate why certain elements are important to you. Perhaps cost reduction or improvements in customer service levels are overriding objectives. If so, the document detailing what system capabilities you want providers to describe should clearly detail this.
By including such insights, you are less likely to receive vanilla responses that contain minimal information. Importantly, the provider that wins the contract will use this information to streamline the implementation process, making it easier for both buyer and seller to manage the changes that come with the new TMS.
What is the provider’s change management culture?
A new TMS solution represents a substantial investment, and buying from a system supplier that is culturally incompatible with your own handicaps the project from the outset. When issuing an RFP take the opportunity to ask incisive questions about providers’ approaches to change management. For example, what elements of managing change do they value the most and what is their vision of a responsive TMS provider?
If you receive textbook answers or very limited responses, this could be an indication that the company only pays lip service to change management or does not have the processes in place to deal with those challenges. Another possibility is that they regard these as “soft” issues unworthy of serious attention. In which case, not only are they out of date—they’re also putting the success of the project at risk.
Which case examples—not just product features—should be included?
Many RFPs include long lists of questions about the product features offered by suppliers. This is important information, but it does not give you all the pieces to the puzzle. In order to fully evaluate providers, you need detailed information about how product features are delivered. For example, there might be a checkbox that asks whether the TMS generates cost-per-pound data. A tick shows that the system does indeed offer the required details, but this response says nothing about how the data is generated and aggregated. You need a more detailed response.
To find out more, ask for case examples or scenarios that illustrate how the data is created and used. Also, beware of buzzwords that don’t explain much. The liberal use of “optimize” without explaining exactly what this means is one example. Based on these scenarios, providers can populate the RFP with tailored information and can begin to think about the change management issues that might have to be addressed later on.
How can you dig deeper to find the right solution?
Don’t settle for thinly populated RFPs from providers that only give an overview of the systems on offer. For instance, are there parts of the TMS solution that the provider outsources? Do key analytics and accounting features work seamlessly together or are they bolted onto the system to satisfy the demands of each user? Questions like these enable you to delve into the system’s robustness—don’t be afraid to ask them.
In addition, let it be known that the shortlisted suppliers will be expected to stage demos that show the capabilities and processes described in the RFP. There is no substitute for seeing a key feature in action. Not every web tool is customizable, for instance, and this will become evident in a product demonstration.
Are the right people going to be at the table?
Change management during a TMS implementation is a lot more difficult when there are gaps in the team’s expertise. As mentioned previously, it’s important that an RFP communicates where your priorities lie and what capabilities you are looking for. However, the implementation team has to possess the skills and expertise required to meet these demands. If financial targets are top of your priority list, are there people with this type of training and knowledge in the team, and what qualifications to do they have? If the system is heavy on analytics, does the provider employ certified supply chain engineers who will be part of the implementation program? It is essential to have the right people on your team to successfully move your TMS change forward.
RFPs help you to find the best possible solutions, but are far less effective without the inclusion of searching implementation/change management questions.If you are in the process of creating an RFP, or have a TMS investment in mind, think about how many of these types of questions you intend to ask. If the answer is none or very few, perhaps it’s time for a rethink.
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