Winning RFXs for Print Service Providers

Published November 2014

Collaboration is in the interest of all organizations involved in the procurement process. Gone are the days when the supply chain was a purely linear affair. Today, supply chains comprise competitors who can be partners, customers who can be collaborators and suppliers who can be competitors. Capturing the specialist expertise required from a Print Service Provider cuts to the heart of the matter for the procurement department concerned. Easy communication aids better facilitation, expedites the procurement process and supports the delivery of the desired superb results, on time and to budget, cutting out laborious processes and streamlining delivery. Sounds great, doesn’t it? In order to achieve this though, the proposed contractor – in this case, the Print Service Provider - needs a good line of communication with the procurement department. This starts when the RFX is issued. RFX, one of the most common acronyms in the strategic sourcing and procurement industry, is a term that embraces all references to Request for Information (RFI), Request for proposal (RFP), Request for Quote (RFQ) and Request for Bid (RFB). The RFX process is one of the most difficult e-procurement processes to define as it encompasses simple one-time RFQ to a complex, multi-stage RFT/RFP/RFQ process, depending on the needs of the project. The complexity of the RFX process is determined by, among other factors, the completeness of the requirements, the number of Print Service Providers that have been qualified, expected competition among the proposed suppliers, the inherent risk in the sourcing effort and the projected savings or cost avoidance opportunities. At this juncture the procurement official is in a difficult situation. They are in the proposal business. They need to be good listeners so they can pick the very best PSP to work with so they can buy in the best goods and services at the best price. They are astute enough to realize that the more they talk to industry the more they will find out. But, often, they are accused of not communicating well (if at all) as they go through the procurement process. This can potentially jeopardize the selection of the best PSP contractor and make the process more prone to ‘failure’ in terms of Best Value. So what’s the solution? Commercial Print Service Providers need to know how they can find out more information; who they can ask. They often feel frustrated in their endeavours. Sometimes it’s hard to get hold of Procurement and get them to answer calls. And, even if they do answer calls, sometimes they won’t give any kind of detailed answer. Given this, is it possible for the PSP tendering to access business intelligence and identify the right point in the cycle? Bureaucracy, and cultural barriers to communication can sometimes make it difficult. Procurement needs to focus on partnership and sharing information so that staff working in contracts departments within PSPs can access the right information to help frame better contract agreements. A Print Service Provider contracts officer may know who the competition is and what their strengths and weaknesses are, but figuring out who talk to within Procurement can be very awkward. It’s about intelligence as it can sometimes take a lot more digging around and use of resources. It’s about:
  • Identifying an ally that is in a high enough position so that they overcome their natural tendency to shut down discussions.
  • Timing in the procurement cycle process and the need to get to operators
  • Asking the right questions that lead down the path to closer proximity, especially when graphically remote.
Ultimately, in the Tender process, it could be that no one person is making the decision; it could be a group of people making the decision; different organizations have different methods, one may actively discourage any dialogue leaving the PSP Tendering organization to figure out who their allies are in each individual organization and who will help them get that information. At the end of the day, it’s about timing and to use a well-known adage, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know but it’s well worth making the effort once you have identified which end-buyer organizations you, as a PSP, want to work with as, to get on approved suppliers’ lists and then win Tenders on a regular basis, will lead to lucrative, well-earned contracts. From the Procurement department’s viewpoint within the buying organization, communicating well with potential supplier-partners and Print Service Provider organizations and striking the balance between good communication at a level that will still lead to ‘Best Value’, is an art-form well worth cultivating. Contact Claritum today to find out how you can strengthen your capability to win Tenders in the highly competitive Print Service Provider environment.