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<p>UTICA, Mich. – Credit union tech vendors are not apt to turn down business, but a poorly written and presented Request for Proposal from a credit union may have the same effect. Jason Sherrill, president of InetSolution, Utica, Mich., an Internet services firm serving CUs, said some RFPs are just down right bad. “One thing we notice as a recurring problem with these RFPs is they lack sufficient detail to deliver any proposal that is value driven or solution driven,” said Sherrill. He said InetSolution gets about three credit union proposals a month. Of all the proposals it gets, only about 20% are what he would consider correct. One thing they lack, said Sherrill, is any real goal for what the credit union is trying to achieve with the technology product they are putting out the RFP for. “They might say they want to build a new e-branch, but what specifically the credit union is trying to do, whether it’s drive members online, looking to pull members in from a new FOM, is not there,” said Sherrill. He said CUs are doing themselves a disservice because the more detailed and specific an RFP is, the better the vendor can match products to their needs. Aside from being vague and not communicating any goals, Sherrill said many CU RFPs do not include a contact person designated to answer vendor questions who are working on the proposal. “We spend 60 to 80 man hours preparing a proposal. About 20% of that is client communication. Credit unions should expect to spend 5 to 15 hours communicating with the vendor if they really want to achieve a quality proposal,” he said. Another major flaw he sees is a lack of understanding for the technology they are seeking. He attributes this to the CU not involving their tech professionals in the process, or CUs that don’t have tech professionals on staff. He said if the RFP is driven by something the board has decided strategically, but the tech professionals haven’t been included in, the RFP is likely to be too vague to attract quality RFPs. The credit unions are in the driving seat, as the buyer, so why should they care if their proposals aren’t up to snuff? “A poor quality RFP erodes the credit union’s negotiating position. Credit unions that submit well-crafted RFPs will demonstrate that they’re knowledgeable and well-prepared for the engagement,” said Sherrill. “On the other hand, a poor quality RFP may indicate a less knowledgeable, less prepared credit union, so more time will be needed to be dedicated to discovery and analysis, thus increasing the cost and complexity of the engagement,” he said. And although he didn’t say it in so many words, a CU that looks lost in the RFP may look like an easy target for the vendor to try and charge on the upper levels of their cost models. According to Terry Treadwell of CUES Tech Port, the RFP process is something a lot of credit unions need help with. On the CUES Tech Port site (www.cuestechport.com) there is a large section on preparing an RFP, including templates. Treadwell said it is one of the most popular features of the site. Treadwell said if all else fails, some credit unions are going to have to break down and use an outside consultant to get the RFP right. “Obviously they don’t want to use an expensive outside expert, but in some cases they may have to,” she said. Sherrill said many CU RFPs are nothing more than a questionnaire about the vendor. He said CUs may learn a lot about the vendors, but little about how they can specifically help them in what they’re trying to achieve. He suggested that some CUs may want to do a two-phase RFP process: the first phase evaluates the vendors; the second phase gets very detailed and specific about the products they are looking for and what they hope to achieve with them.</p>

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