RFPs: Got Your Head in the Cloud?

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Chris Bohlin

Chris Bohlin

Last year while shopping for my first home, I can honestly say that I had little idea what I was doing.  Fortunately, I was able to use the recommendations of friends, family and numerous online tools to help me make my decision.   This was not a quick process however.  I spent the better part of a year developing the right questions to ask realtors, identifying the critical must-have to the nice-to-have features in the home, and simply trying to figure out what town I actually wanted to live in.

The home shopping process reminded me of the request for proposal (RFP) process.  RFPs don’t just get sent out of the blue.  The requesting organizations spend hours creating questions, considering vendors to receive the RFP and organizing a document that will be easy to understand thereby allowing them to compare results across vendors. Basically a ton of work for what they hope will let them gather the right information and make the best vendor decision.

As I see more and more RFPs come across my desk here at SoundBite, I am often struck by how these request documents are mired in on-premise questions.  You simply can’t use a typical on-premise RFP to effectively evaluate a cloud-based solution.  Questions such as number of trunks and port space are not addressing the cloud model and I feel as if I am being forced to crunch the cloud message into each response. It is as if the document is asking questions about a house that only has the foundation poured, while I can offer a house that is ready to move into today.

Here are four steps to ensure that your RFP evaluates cloud-based and on-premise providers equally.

1)      Be forward thinking.   For most of you, the last time you were in the marketplace to purchase a dialer, the cloud was simply not a viable solution.  Over the last four years, the technology, deployment and security has advanced leaps and bounds with many industry reports clearly showing that contact centers today are moving to the cloud.  Are you clear on the differences and advantages you can receive from the cloud?

2)      Ask questions and seek out the experts.  Speak with vendors who may offer assistance in the development of the RFP.  By engaging vendors, such as SoundBite, who have experience in the marketplace, you can understand the cloud business model and be able to position questions that can effectively evaluate on-premise and cloud-based dialer alike.

3)      Understand how to grow your dialer.  The contact center is an always changing and evolving landscape.  Look to a vendor with a truly integrated multi-channel offering, which will allow you to leverage new features without having to buy additional support modules.  Your RFP questions should reflect the cost-to-expand and timeline to deploy future solutions to adapt to the changing marketplace.

4)      Test while you wait.  Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a home before you actually bought it?  Typical RFP processes can last months and once the decisions are made the installation of on-prem solutions are typically not quick.  Collections organizations can run a low-risk, low-cost pilot during an RFP process with cloud-based providers like SoundBite, which may even eliminate the need to continue with the process.

There is little doubt that the RFP process, for both the issuer and participating vendors, is a labor-intensive process, just like purchasing a house.  Why not seek out the experts learn and ask questions specific to the cloud – this will help break out of the current paradigm and get you the benefits and functions when it comes to on-premise and cloud vendors.

Chris Bohlin is the Senior Product Manager for SoundBite’s voice applications including its Hosted Dialer and Automated Voice Messaging.  Chris has worked in the telecom and collections industries for over 10 years.  Over that time he has developed extensive knowledge and domain experience in contact center infrastructure and technology and has a deep understanding and appreciation for the cloud-based business model.  Chris joined SoundBite over a year ago to help with the development and rollout of SoundBite’s Hosted Dialer product.

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