The trouble with investing in a new, unknown technology is that it's sometimes difficult to know what questions to ask a potential vendor.
Sure, you know broadly what it is you want to achieve — and any vendor will be adamant that they're the right guys to do it for you. But how do you cut through the marketing spiel to figure out if they really do have the tools and capabilities you need to get the job done in the best possible way? What specifically do you need to know?
That's where a Request for Proposal (RFP) document comes in super-handy.
What Is an RFP Template?
An RFP template is essentially a framework of questions that covers all the key bases for the type of solution under assessment, which you can send to a vendor. You gain peace of mind that you haven't overlooked something majorly important in the procurement stage — plus, it gives you a clear and easy way to evaluate vendors side-by-side.
If you don't know what to include in an RFP template for a BI solution or think the one you have needs a refresher, not to worry. We've created a template you can (and should!) use freely when evaluating BI.
But even before then, there are seven key business and technical areas you should be sure to cover.
1. Complexity of Data
It's highly likely that you need to bring multiple complex data sources into the mix to get a complete picture of your business. These questions are designed to ensure that your solution is flexible enough to handle anything you throw at it and to treat it like a single source of truth.
2. Implementation Time
The longer it takes to fully implement your BI solution, the longer you'll wait until you start to see a return on investment. These questions are designed to establish how long you can expect to wait until your technical solution is rolled out, your team's on board, and you're ready to start getting results.
3. Total Cost of Ownership
Some BI vendors calculate TCO purely in terms of your initial outlay, but this can be misleading. Instead, these questions will gather the information you need to figure out how much the solution will really cost you in long term staffing costs, data storage, and the real TCO per report or analysis.
4. Data Warehousing/Storage
If the solution you're looking at does not offer a streamlined way to store, handle, and access data, you may be looking at huge data warehousing costs. These questions will help you clarify what options this vendor offers for data storage and unfettered access.
5. Agility/Ease of Use
It's crucial that everyone who needs to can use your BI solution when they want, how they want, without IT intervening each time. Use these questions to establish whether your solution is genuinely self-service and directly accessible to non-technical business users.
Your BI vendor might do everything you need them to now, but are they innovating enough to cope with your needs in the future? These questions look to figure out how much ongoing R&D they're doing to make sure they won't get complacent later on.
7. Customer Service/Customer Experience
No matter how powerful your BI solution is, without the right guidance, support, and training, you won't get the full value out of it. These questions aim to clarify what you can expect after you sign on the dotted line.
Don't stop here! Now that you've seen seven of the most important key areas to outline, we've got a few more for you to consider, plus a free RFP template to make gathering information from vendors even easier.