We often hear questions about the differences between an ERP RFI and an ERP RFP. When should you use each, and what is its purpose?
An RFI, or Request for Information, is a procurement document used by an organization to:
- gather relevant information about available ERP options and
- help narrow down prospective ERP partners.
RFIs are therefore crafted and issued at an early, exploratory stage of ERP project development, and are often used in combination with a later RFP.
An RFP, or request for proposal is more targeted than an RFI. Instead of asking prospective ERP vendors for information, an RFP tells them your specific project needs/goals and asks them to send you a specific, customized proposal to meet your expressed needs. You’ll analyze these proposals and make a decision about which ERP partner to go with for your implementation.
The Purpose and Parts of an ERP RFI
When you send out an RFI, you likely have a general idea of what you need and want from an ERP vendor, but are still open to new ideas and perspectives. Your RFI questions can therefore be more open ended.
An effective RFI gives you an overview of the ERP vendor landscape, letting you see what might available in terms of technology and support. You use the information you learn in the RFI to decide which vendors to get to know better through additional meetings and demos, on-site visits, or proof-of-concept examples. Here are the primary goals of an ERP RFI:
Explore Cultural Fit
As in all business relationships, the “cultural fit” is a critical factor to consider. You’ll want to explore working styles and collaborative approaches to see if there’s a good match between your own company and the potential ERP vendor. Many abas USA customers, for instance, say they like working with us because we’re not too corporate, not too massive, we’re relatable, and have responsive, likable employees who connect well with our customers’ own employees. These “soft” factors matter a lot in partnerships as important as those between an ERP vendor and a manufacturing or distribution business.
Explore Functional Requirements
This is the most significant part of an RFI and will be the most detailed. Here you’ll explain your ERP project goals and system requirements to vendors.
For example, maybe you want to begin selling your products online in a Webshop. Or maybe you’re planning M&A activities that will require you to integrate other companies into your ERP. Or maybe you want to improve your quality management processes in production and distribution. Maybe you’re ready to start the move to the cloud and mobile processes.
Regardless of your plans, the RFI is the place to start assessing which ERP systems will be able to meet your requirements.
Ask Smart Questions
Keep RFI questions focused on your strategic goals. Here are some examples:
- What is the typical ERP implementation time frame for a company of our size?
- What experience do you have working with businesses in our industry or with our manufacturing process type?
- How do you track and communicate project progress from a work-completed and a financial standpoint?
- When we place a call to your support organization, who is the first person we talk to and what is their background and experience?
- How are you different relative to other ERP providers in the market?
The responses you get to your RFI will not only demonstrate each vendor’s expertise but will also help educate you for the upcoming steps of the process.
The Purpose and Parts of an ERP RFP
An RFP is much more specific to your particular needs. You’ve moved beyond the “getting to know you” phase with the RFI and have narrowed the choice down to just a few eligible ERP vendors. You’ve seen extensive demos and asked specific questions about the software. Now it’s time for the RFP, which will ask vendors to commit to pricing, timing of the implementation and more. With the RFP, you want the prospective ERP vendors to show you exactly what they can do, how they’ll do it, when they’ll do it, the value your company will gain, and for what size of investment.
Be Clear and Specific About Your Project Requirements and Goals
In order for an ERP vendor to create a viable proposal, you’ll need to be specific about your requirements and timeline for implementing your ERP system. Which features and functions need to be included? What deployment method will you use (cloud ERP, hybrid ERP, on-premise ERP)? Which mobile apps do you need? What reporting or business intelligence (BI) capabilities are you looking for? How do you want the ERP to integrate Business Process Management / automated workflows? The more the vendor knows about your requirements, the better they can craft a proposal to meet your needs.
You’ll also want to think about ongoing maintenance. Include specifics about the service level agreement (SLA) and support options, cost and frequency of upgrades and training options to make sure your users and system will continue to grow and change as your company does.