Thursday, 21 June 2007

The Dirty Little Secret about RFQ's

RFQ's or Requests For Quotations are the bane of the accounting software industry. They take a long time to prepare, a long time to complete, and I have to wonder whether they improve the process of selecting accounting software at all.

The idea makes perfect sense:

  1. You determine your needs, e.g. multi-currency, an inventory module that will handle obsolescence, a fixed asset subledger, etc.
  2. You write all those needs down in the form of questions, e.g. "Will your software allow daily changes to exchange rates?"
  3. You distribute the questionnaire to software consulting firms who complete it and send it back.
  4. Based on their answers, you select a shortlist of consulting firms to interview and demo their product.
Simple, right? No! The dirty little secret is that accounting software vendors know that they can never answer "no" to a question on an RFQ or they will never be selected for the interview, so they bend over backwards to answer "yes" to all the questions. Strictly speaking, they're not wrong, because software can be changed or work arounds can be developed, but the result is not a true picture of what the software can do.

So, rather than using the shotgun approach with a huge questionnaire, determine your top ten features and grill the vendors about how their system approaches them. Pick features that are operational (e.g. how Sales Orders are handled) or unique to your industry. Secondly, spend a lot of time following up on the references supplied by the consulting firms (you DID ask for references, didn't you?) In my experience, other users have been happy to talk to me about their systems, even taking the time to invite me over to see it in person. Then you can ask them about the vendor as well.

Happy Hunting!


Dennis Howlett said...

You might want to check out BASDA which offers a handy way of doing these things.