Zombies & RFPs – The Problem with the Undead

By: Cathy McLagan
PAICR President, PAICR Board of Directors member

“People talk about the death of the RFP because it’s gotten so complicated,” Christopher Faust (Qvidian) says. “They want to kill it but they can’t. It won’t die. There’s no way.”

Fundfire RFP Automation Tools Set to Alleviate Search Headaches, March 23, 2016

Zombies!  Ever since Night of the Living Dead introduced us to these slow moving non- descript monsters, we’ve seen an explosion of types and characters that are all related to the genre.

RFPs remind me of zombies.  For the last few years, we’ve been told that RFPs are dead. Big name plans announced they were abandoning the tradition model and instead shadow searches would be lurking behind the scenes.  While the traditional RFP model is changing, it’s not dead; like the zombie story genre, RFPs are evolving to keep teams busy and on their toes.

Slow vs. Fast Zombies

 Night of the Living Dead’s black and white zombies move slowly.  You have plenty of time to run away, pause and scream and then lock yourself in the house to wait for them to show up several minutes later and break through windows. Similarly, the traditional RFP model allowed time for review, public notice, along with a period to ask questions (or perhaps stop and scream), followed by the longer (several months) cycle for Q&A submission, receipt of files, etc.  We still see these types of RFPs and have time to stop and scream as we pull together the numerous pieces needed to complete and respond.

Technicolor zombies move fast. In features like World War Z, the slow-moving zombie is a thing of the past, replaced by zombies that overtake you before you reach the safety of home.  Similarly, the timelines for new RFPs are shortening.  You can submit clarification questions but might not get the answers until a few days before the deadline!  These timelines force teams to choose between working on a RFP they may not submit OR producing one in a few days.  Neither case is ideal and both are frustrating to all parties.

Permanent vs. Temporary–

There was a time when a zombie was a zombie and no amount of love could change them.  Today, the zombie genres include people infected by diseases and we learn we can coexist with the living dead. As in Shawn of the Dead or Warm Bodies, medicine, or even love, can cure a zombie returning them to contributing members of society….

Online tools also take these two approaches. Databases such as eVestment and GIMD are permanent homes for your products and information.  Data entered in these systems will live there for years to come (sometimes to your dismay).  No amount of love or medicine will change that ill-fated profile you created and your firm will permanently be explaining why you don’t maintain that 120/20 product anymore.

Now we are also seeing temporary homes for data.  Search facilitators use online portals to allow firms to submit information for a specific RFP or client. This direct connection to a search can cause confusion in-house – is it a database or a RFP?  Which team maintains it and reviews it?

Still breathing …

 Bottom line—if you’re waiting for the final nail to be put in the RFP’s coffin, I think you could be waiting quite a while. Clients and consultants are expanding the search methodologies they use but the industry hasn’t seen a mass abandonment of traditional RFPs. The evolving ways to gather information challenges RFP teams to be nimble and make friends with the Walking Dead.


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