By definition, a proposal document offers a solution to a problem. In this case, you're asking for a solution to your payroll problem.
Your company’s request for proposal (RFP) document should specify exactly what your organization is looking for in your new payroll solution. Unfortunately, most standard RFPs are long, impersonal documents that fail to ask the right questions relating to your actual needs and requirements from a vendor.
So don’t create a “standard” RFP—use this opportunity to leverage your vendors and get the best solution for your global payroll operation.
Part I of this article in the October issue of Global Payroll focused on taking the right steps to plan an RFP strategy, involving the right people, and creating a goals-driven proposal. Part II offers advice on asking the right questions, structuring, and sending out your RFP, plus some bite-sized tips for proposal success.
Ask the Right Questions
With your list of objectives that you outlined in your business case and internally, you can choose the questions that will go into your RFP.
Remember, be specific with questions.
If your RFP is full of generic questions, you'll get generic answers that require follow up and will take up more time. Being specific will encourage vendors to tailor their answers to your particular set of circumstances and provide a solution or alternative you may have never considered before.
Ask each department (e.g., payroll, finance, IT, and HR) which functions are essential versus those they would like to have. This will help you rank questions by order of importance.
For example, your payroll team's essential functions might include
Paperless payslips and statements
Desirable functions could include
Improved user experience
Ask your teams which factors would eliminate a potential vendor for them.
Budget and timeline concerns?
Your IT team might say that if the vendor doesn't have ISO quality certification or if their technology doesn't comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR, they should be out of the running.
For the vendor, include practical questions like:
What's the background information for its organization, e.g., executive summary?
What's the timeline of implementations based on your company size?
Costs? What’s included and what is extra?
Onboarding process? What resources will be needed on your side and what countries do they suggest onboarding first?
Organize your questions in order of priority with essential functions first followed by desirable functions.
Don’t be afraid to ask for something new or present a challenging scenario for the vendor to solve. This will encourage vendors to offer ideas and suggestions and will give you insight as to how innovative and strategic the vendor is when faced with a challenge.
Your RFP Structure
Once you've organized your questions in terms of priority, you can move onto structuring your RFP. Structure is just as important as the questions you are asking. A clear layout will help you later when reviewing the RFPs.
Many organizations start by repurposing an old RFP. We recommend you do not do this. Reusing an old document will hinder the process from the start and cause more delays.
The current landscape around us changes rapidly—new technology, changing environments, travel innovations, etc. Even if you asked the right questions the last time, ultimately you will see that your business has a whole new set of objectives this time around.
Sections might include
Project scope and coverage
Think carefully about how you want to lay it out and be as clear as possible. If your RFP is too long or overly complex, it will be difficult to review. Some things to consider are:
Pose yes or no questions and ask for short answers where appropriate
Ask for visual representations where needed, such as system architecture and design
Use one file between you and the vendor
Organize your questions based on how departments need to review answers. For example if payroll, finance, IT, and HR are involved, you can make these section names for each function’s associated questions.
A good RFP will support an efficient review cycle, and if you provide clear information, you’re more likely to receive a favorable outcome.
Get Ready to Send Out Your RFP
At this stage, you should have shortened your list of vendors to no more than four or five using your request for information (RFI) document. RFPs can be long, complex documents, and you'll need to spend some time evaluating each proposal.
All that time and effort adds up quickly.
Other methods of narrowing it down can include phone calls (at least one hour in duration) and in-person presentations/demonstrations.
If you vet potential vendors thoroughly early on—whether it be through your RFI, demos, or sales calls—you'll waste less time reviewing unsuitable candidates that don’t meet your criteria.
Your RFP should be accompanied by a cover letter. This gives you a chance to emphasize the importance of your RFP process timeline.
Include the following in your cover letter to be as clear and concise as possible with vendors (in the long run it will save you a lot of time and effort):
Invitation to submit a proposal
Brief description of your company and its goals, objectives, business model,
Challenges with current payroll and how you see the project aligning with business
Overall RFP and project timeline
Requirements for the proposal (structure, format, electronic versions, number of
copies), where they are to be sent and by what date
Estimated timeframe for the project’s contract award
By thinking strategically when it comes to your RFP, you'll set yourself up for success when it comes to choosing a suitable vendor.
This is the start of a conversation and a potential relationship and should set the tone for the type of conversation you want to have. The better your vendor understands you and your business, the more likely you are to succeed in getting the solution you and your organization need.
Remember, you should also be able to pick up the phone or meet with a potential vendor to discuss your requirements in more detail. A good vendor will be happy to go through all the details with you, whether in an RFP or otherwise.
Bite-Size Tips for a Successful RFP
Pose a challenge to your vendor and see what solutions it offers to solve it. Use this opportunity as insight to their lateral thinking, attitude towards challenges, and problem-solving skills.
Remember: the vendors are professionals and global payroll is their industry and core business offering. Have trust in their suggestions and be open-minded to new ideas.
Work backwards from the end goal–what does success look like and what do you want your global payroll to look like? Now make sure it’s included in your RFP.
Put the most important, non-negotiable elements at the beginning of your RFP. This way if a vendor doesn’t offer it, you can eliminate it straight away and move onto the next RFP.
Pick up the phone. If you aren’t sure, call and speak to the vendors and ask them questions.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a strong relationship on both sides. An excellent payroll provider is happy to talk and will guide you with no pressure.
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Mark Graham is the Chief Commercial Officer at Immedis. He is responsible for the company’s sales strategy and driving growth through commercial partnerships. Mark studied at Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland before moving to the United States to gain experience in international markets. He has a passion for global payroll and the technology associated with it. He puts the quality of the iConnect; the Immedis proprietary technology down to the dedicated payroll professionals who have helped sculpt it.