1. Good implementation partners are picky

Don’t take it personally, but we need to be upfront about this. Not every partner wants to win your project.

When a partner decides to respond to a tender, they commit to a considerable investment in time, effort, and expertise from both the bid management and pre-sales teams.

For example, each RFP is evaluated against your requirements to see if the solution is fit for purpose, the industry you are in - and our experience in it, go-live timing and critical impact dates (to ensure we don’t overcommit our resources and fail to deliver), any contractual terms that negatively impact our business or restrict future opportunities, and, we hate to say it, your reputation.

Fair play is important. If your business is an annual ERP RFP tyre-kicker, has a history of poor relationships with other technology vendors, or is tossing the RFP net so wide that it’s obvious we’ve been included to make up numbers, or the RFP isn’t vendor-neutral (therefore, the playing field isn’t flat), we’ll evaluate our decision to respond - or not - even more carefully.

Tender tip: Don’t assume every partner wants to partner with you. Like you, we make careful judgment calls based on risk and investment vs. potential return on investment. Our brand and reputation are at stake with every project we do, and we can’t afford to make a bad call.

2. It's all about success

Every implementation partner wants every ERP project to be a success. That’s how we collectively grow our businesses and attract more customers by having a great track record. From your perspective - the better the partner, the less risk for you, and the greater the project return on investment.  

However, achieving a great business outcome demands commitment on both sides. It requires effort, transparency, openness, accountability, and a willingness to do the hard yards without cutting corners (for example, not investing in organisational change management to save money). In the long term, the project’s success can depend on the strength of the partnership, the executive relationship, and the ability to have those tough conversations.

So, if an RFP suggests that the partner is expected to deliver a successful outcome without the wholehearted buy-in of the business’s stakeholders and teams, alarm bells ring. And most good partners (us included) will politely back away.

Tender tip: Be open to engaging outside the tender process to ‘fill in the gaps.” Commitment is a two-way street.

3. Fit does matter (to us as well as you)

While ANY application can be made to fit if you throw enough money at it, it’s common sense to minimise custom development and, where possible, embrace best practice.

For leading implementation partners, fit is the most important factor when deciding whether to respond to your RFP. Solution Architects review your detailed requirements, the scale of complexity, and expectations to determine whether their solution will meet your needs and is fit for purpose. This evaluation includes exploring any gaps and whether these can be cost-effectively overcome by configuration, ISVs or extensions.

So, your RFP must capture as much information as possible about your existing solutions, objectives, desired outcomes, and future opportunities (like upsizing or expanding your business into other regions) that are important to you.

A good partner can then respond honestly if the fit is poor, and the risks are too high. They may even make recommendations based on their knowledge of other solutions and partners.

Tender tip: Even if we decline the opportunity to respond to your RFP, the right fit solution is out there, waiting for you. We will always keep the door open even if we haven’t been selected or have decided not to submit a response. You can always turn to us for help and advice from our OCM, Data, Testing and Quality Assurance teams in our solution-agnostic Transformation Advisory division.

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4. We need to know what you know

The more information you share with your shortlist of ERP partners, the better.

While some businesses opt for limited vendor engagement at the RFP stage, this can immediately filter out leading partners.

If your RFP lacks the details needed to make an informed and accurate response, and there are restricted opportunities to ask for clarification, it can be seen as too high a risk compared with the probability of success. Given the significant internal cost of responding to an RFP (hint – often hundreds of hours), partners will frequently qualify themselves out of the process.   

Tender tip: Be generous with your information. To gain an accurate response, paint the clearest picture possible of your current status and vision for the future while capturing unique or industry requirements. When creating your tender, spend time outlining ‘why this is important to us’ and what it means to the business in terms of growth or risk mitigation. Your potential partner will want to evaluate the ROI of the business impact as well as the functional and technical requirements.

Put as much time into your partner shortlist as your RFP

As mentioned earlier, throwing a wide net isn’t the most effective way to get the best responses to your tenders – from the right partners. Volume rarely equates to quality.

If you’ve already spent some time narrowing down the solutions you believe are a good fit for your business, then talking to the vendors and asking who their top partners are is often a good starting place. Vendors can usually guide you through your options based on the type of relationship you’d like to have with your partner.

While a ‘boutique’ partner may appeal (after all, who doesn’t like to be a big fish in a small pond?), be aware that a niche partner may not come with the bells and whistles that add more value to your business. It’s unlikely they have the governance discipline and experience needed to guarantee implementation success, add-on services (like data management, data security or testing), quality control certifications, or transformation advisory or a project management office. If you’re just after a no-frills solution implementation, that’s fine – but you’ll rarely find the same degree of innovation or thought leadership offered by leading ERP practices.

Likewise, a very large international partner with little on-the-ground experience in your region can be a poor fit for an Australasian business. They often take an overly cumbersome approach, whereas most Australasian businesses value and prefer a more personable, pragmatic, and flexible partner.

Tender tip: Take a strategic approach to defining the type of partner you wish to work with. You deserve a relationship fit that’s as good as the solution fit.  

The golden rules

So, what do you need to remember?

  1. Leading ERP partners don’t just fall into your lap.
    A good implementation partner will make a significant investment in preparing your proposal – but they need to be confident that you are taking it as seriously as they are.
  2. Success is a two-way street.
    Mutual success is the optimum outcome for partners and customers. To achieve that, you need to play by the same rules.
  3. Prioritise fit for purpose.
    An initially ‘cheap’ proposal can mean expensive (and hard to maintain) customisation.
  4. Engage openly.
    Share information fully to ensure that your potential partner has visibility of the risks and can either address them or decline the opportunity.
  5. Perfect the art of partnership.
    Be realistic about who you want to work with and the benefits they bring to the table.

Peter Drucker once said, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” And that can apply equally to you as a business looking for transformation as the partner who chooses to work by your side.

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