No one likes RFPs (Requests for Proposal), not the people who write them, nor the companies that receive them.
In a recent article for the Chronical of Higher Education, Michael Feldstein explains, it is tough to be truly innovative in many fields—especially education. He says, “The committee then declares that the winning product must work exactly like Blackboard and exactly like Moodle, while having all the features of Canvas. Oh, and it must be ‘innovative’ and ‘next-generation’ too, because we’re sick of learning-management systems that all look and work the same.”
Well guess what—if you are sick of your learning-management system (or any other system) being the same, then you picked the wrong process to move the ball forward.
A school cannot talk innovation when the RFP is a Request From the Past, full of features that keep previous systems alive and kicking. If the faculty wants to hold on to some precious feature that only one or two people use, I recommended adding two more columns to the RFP: “How many people want this?” and “Rationale for wanting it.” I’ll bet that list shrinks pretty quickly when people are asked to explain their requests.
The RFP process should be a time to examine your processes, what works, what doesn’t. Why do we really need to switch systems? Where do we want to be in 1, 3, 5, or 10 years? What is the long term cost of not sunsetting things like Flash content or SCORM?
In reality some RFPs are just a front to avoid change. “Look, we went through the process and [insert reasons here].” Then there is the fallacy of sunk cost. That is the easy way out of change. These decisions are often made emotionally, and to reduce the risk of looking bad if things don’t go right. In reality, your team and/or their predecessors made the best decision they could make at that time.
If you want to move ahead you have to stop replicating the past.