Is There a Better Way?

We’ve had to complete a number of request for proposals (RFPs) recently. The last one came in at over 50 pages when all the questions were appropriately answered. What if that Plan Sponsor went out to 6 companies for RFPs and all the RFPs were comparable in size…that’s over 300 pages of reading. And not the leisurely, fun type of reading, I might add.

While some of the RFP questions are good, many leave you scratching your head and wondering, “Why in the world would this really matter?” I suggest it be wonderful if our industry could decide on a limited, core set of questions that all RFPs would include – standardized RFP questions. After that, the Plan Sponsor can add in a series of additional, Plan Sponsor-specific questions based on their unique circumstances and needs. I’m assuming if the Plan Sponsor’s goal is to find the right services and best fit for the participants, then more Plan Sponsor-specific questions would make sense vs. page after page of generic questions worded slightly different on each RFP. The limited, core set of questions could be easily maintained by the service provider allowing more focus and attention on the Plan Sponsor-specific questions.

When developing the Plan Sponsor-specific questions, the more specific, the better. What are they really looking for? What are the must have’s? This would seem to provide far better and appropriate information than the standardized, sterile RFPs we see today.

On a related note, why are finalist presentations more like a beauty contest instead of like hiring a new CFO or Director of Human Resources? Let’s get away from the hour long meeting where the service provider struts around the stage selling their solution. What if we replaced it with a 15 minute opening where the service provider states their case as to why their firm is the right fit followed by a sit-across-the-table interview where the service provider is grilled and the short and concise RFP is used like a resume? Wouldn’t this provide more meaningful information – and far less fluff – for the Plan Sponsor?

I’m told of one finalist presentation where all seven of the service provider representatives showed up wearing a new line of slippers manufactured by the Plan Sponsor. Seriously? They didn’t get the business, by the way.

Instead of a finalist presentation, shouldn’t it be a finalist interview where the Plan Sponsor controls the majority of the content?

If the focus is finding what’s in the best interest of the participant, then there must be a better way.