IT Trenches

Jun 15 2009   8:45PM GMT

Tips for negotiating a managed services contract – how many shopping days?

Troy Tate Profile: Troy Tate

The first post in this series covered two questions: Where are you? and Where do you want to go?

This second article in the series will describe the calendar of events or how many shopping days do we have?

The third article in the series will cover the actual RFP (request for proposal) anatomy and contents.

So, how many shopping days do we have until something has to be in place for our organization? Take your estimated timeframe, double it and then add 50% more is one way I have heard to estimate a project timeline. That means if a project is going to take 30 days, double it to 60 days and then add 50% more for a total of 90 days. This is the amount of time you may need for the following activities:

  1. Build the RFP
  2. Internal review & approval
  3. Vendor pool selection
  4. Deliver company RFP to vendor
  5. Answer vendor’s questions about requirements
  6. Receive vendors’ proposals
  7. Review vendor proposals
  8. Schedule presentation meetings with vendors
  9. Data gathering to respond to vendor questions
  10. Vendor finalist(s) selection
  11. Negotiation with vendor finalist(s)
  12. Proposal acceptance announcement
  13. Contract signing/countersigning

This is not a simple or short timeline. Some of the elements may be small or shortened depending on the scope of the services being proposed.

Diving further into this timeline consider the effort for these steps:

Creating the RFP document

  • Find out if your organization has a standardized format. People on your team are more familiar with format and content.
  • The template has specific legal language to satisfy counsel

Review draft until team understands requirements and desired outcome – what SLA coverage does the team consider important?

Submitting the RFP to vendor pool.  Specify:

  • When information is due back
  • Might check with a few vendors first to see what is a realistic timeline for response
  • What information is expected: pricing first, details later; all information at one time
  • How response should be formatted (e.g. printed, bound, electronic, etc.)

This is a great test of responsiveness of the vendor candidates and their ability to work within the channels of their organization. Their response may show symptoms of what support is like after the sale.

Waiting on vendor response & responding to questions

  • Specify to vendors who in your organization/team is responsible for responding to any questions or addressing issues encountered

Receipt of vendor responses

  • What is your “drop-dead” date for responses?
  • Is it by submission date?
  • Is it by receipt date?

Reviewing vendor proposals

  • Compare vendor responses against evaluation criteria: should be defined by the team before RFP is sent to vendor pool.
  • Knock out bottom candidates
  • Inform candidates of status
  • Schedule proposal reviews with finalist(s)

Negotiation with finalist(s)

Proposal acceptance announcement

Hopefully these tips will help guide you through this sometimes weary, tedious and even exciting process. Stay tuned for part 3 – Anatomy of an RFP.

Thanks for reading! Let’s continue to be good network citizens.

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