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About the author

Nita Sinha

Director | Technology Operations

Nita Sinha is our Director of Technology Operations, and has over 15 years of experience in this sector. Before joining Thomas Murray in 2017 as a Business Analyst, she worked with a consulting firm and leading law firm in London on a variety of infrastructure and software delivery projects. She enjoys delivering simple solutions to complex problems

Even though we’re well into the 21st century, there are still a lot of risk and procurement teams out there relying on manual elements in their request for proposal (RFP) processes. Issuing an RFP is part of a wider process to select a provider, and a critical step in the third-party risk lifecycle. In some cases, the burden of managing third-party monitoring lies at the door of a team swamped with higher value tasks to get on with. For other organisations it could be that, taken in isolation, each task takes a skilled person relatively little effort to complete and so adding automation feels like it would be a poor return on investment.

In this latter case, each of those manual tasks contributes can cost opportunities, time, money, and resources. Worse still, this fragmented approach can result in inaccurate assessments of vendors that increase the level of risk exposure.

Seven ways manual tasks hurt RFPs

  1. Firstly, a manual RFP process is often time-consuming, requiring significant effort and resources. Preparing, distributing, and managing physical copies of the RFP documents can create delays further down the road, leading to missed deadlines and opportunities.
  2. A surprising number of well-established, large organisations are still reliant on things like spreadsheets to track their procurement processes and third parties. In our experience, those organisations will typically still be reliant on other forms of outmoded administrative tools and laborious tasks. Think bulk printing, binding, mailing, and tracking multiple copies of the RFP documents, as well as hands-on management of responses (including chasing in late responses). This places an unnecessary burden on the procurement team and increases the likelihood of errors and inefficiencies.
  3. In a manual process, you require email confirmation that your prospective suppliers are working on your RFP response. Tracking progress through a tool can help you learn who has accepted (and therefore intends to respond to) your RFP and you can be sure that your potential suppliers are working on their responses, while protecting the integrity of your RFP process – and ensuring that you review responses on the same date.
  4. Manual RFP processes often lack the means to facilitate efficient collaboration and communication. Coordinating with multiple stakeholders, such as bidders, evaluators, and reviewers, becomes more challenging if you’re communicating via email and your document storage is decentralised. It can lead to slower response times, difficulties in sharing updates or revisions, and increased chances of miscommunication and errors.
  5. If you’re not using a platform that acts as a single source for all the necessary documentation, maintaining version control and ensuring that all stakeholders have the latest iteration can be a headache. This can result in confusion, inconsistencies, and mistakes during the evaluation and selection process.
  6. A transparent RFP process is essential, even if you’re not in a regulated industry. It guarantees fairness and accountability and is most likely part of your governance requirements. A manual process will not be an asset in this regard, because of its lack of standardised tracking and audit trails (not to mention the trouble it creates with document version control). When its hard to monitor and document your entire RFP process, you leave yourself open to questions about its fairness and compliance.
  7. Analysing and evaluating manual RFP responses can be more time-consuming and error-prone. A lack of cohesion between documents makes comparing proposals side-by-side almost pointless, and makes extracting relevant information and conducting quantitative analysis frustrating experiences.

What your manual RFP is missing when it comes to evaluating suppliers

Unlike machines, people find it hard to be dispassionate. That’s why subjective judgments and biases can creep into supplier evaluations during a manual RFP process. Without a standardised evaluation criteria or automated scoring mechanism, people may interpret and weigh supplier responses differently. The result? Inconsistent and biased evaluations that can be hard to justify.

Some suppliers may opt out of an organisation’s RFP if they’ve already been burnt by a previous experience with its manual, difficult-to-understand evaluations and the agonising wait for a response. Reputational risk can arise if an organisation takes too long to come back to suppliers, perhaps because it’s evaluating a large number of proposals or has set itself complex evaluation criteria. Even if suppliers don’t avoid an organisation on the basis of its slow-moving RFP, there are still likely to be delays in overall procurement. In short, a waste of everyone’s time and effort.

Many suppliers, for example, complain that manually-generated questionnaires don’t allow them to resubmit answers where appropriate, nor are flexible enough for them to present their best case.

This compounds the risk that an organisation will make a poor decision, particularly if it lacks the capability to accurately aggregate and analyse large amounts of data. This is even before you consider how difficult it can be for people in a large organisation to reach a consensus on supplier selection, given conflicting schedules and geographical location.

Talk to us to find out more about how we can help you to move your RFP process to the next level.


Orbit Diligence

Orbit Diligence

Automate your DDQ and RFI processes for a wide range of use cases, accessing a library of off-the-shelf questionnaires and risk frameworks.

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