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Improving the RFx Process with TakeTurns

At Every Turn TakeTurns Blog
|  by
Ken Brown
Ken Brown
,
CRO
Procurement
Use Cases
Improving the RFx Process with TakeTurns

Within many enterprises, strategic sourcing software provides substantial value to purchasing and procurement organizations.  While these solutions have added functionality to manage RFx (RFIs, RFPs, RFQs, RFTs, etc), there are several good reasons why organizations may wish to consider alternatives. 

  • Some structure is good. Too much structure is stifling. Adding structure to processes like procurement improves productivity. Overly prescriptive processes create environments where non-productive tasks can become overwhelming. Needing to ‘click all the right boxes at just the right time or goading the underlying technology to meet your needs can leave you feeling like you’re trying to use a Rube Goldberg machine to accomplish what should be a simple task.
  • Many RFx systems force both your organization and your potential providers to work in a manner that is unnatural to their standard practices.  RFx content is typically derived in spreadsheet or document tools such as Excel, Word, Google Sheets, or Google Docs.  Moving that content into a bespoke system or compelling potential suppliers to respond in such systems can be arduous.
  • If working in your RFx system is overly complex, you may miss out on what could be a stronger supplier relationship.  Their resource constraints can preclude their participation in overly complex processes.
  • RFx solutions embedded in a strategic sourcing platform are a substantial investment in both software and human capital.

TakeTurns is different.  TakeTurns is a structured collaboration tool ideally suited for use with external parties around documents that need to be exchanged, revised, version controlled, and archived.  While it lends itself exceptionally well to the RFx process, its scope can be much broader.  Other use cases are beyond the scope of this document.  (Please see www.taketurns.com)

With TakeTurns, everyone knows whose turn it is to work, gets a full history of the collaboration, and keeps everything secure and confidential. In the purchasing space, TakeTurns fills the collaboration gap between most bespoke/COTS sourcing applications and external parties, such as your partners, vendors, and even customers.

As a horizontal tool automating RFx-related operations, this document will explore numerous best practices associated with using TakeTurns specifically for RFx purposes.

How to set up a Multi-Stage RFx in TakeTurns 

In this section, we illustrate how an RFx could be handled by TakeTurns. In our example, we show a multi-stage RFP where the entire interaction between the buyer and their potential supplier is in one TakeTurns Collaboration.  It’s worth noting this is not the only way to use TakeTurns. Some organizations may prefer a phased approach, breaking up the process into multiple TakeTurns collaborations. 

The stages covered in this example represent a simplified RFP process. The content and gifs are from the point of view of your procurement team as you progress through the following stages:

  • Stage One: Get Started and Exchange NDAs 
  • Stage Two: Provide the RFP Package
  • Stage Three: Receive of Potential Supplier Response
  • Stage Four: Negotiate Agreement

Each stage may require multiple back-and-forths between you and the potential supplier, or turns, such as is the case with iterative review processes. Also, stages most frequently mirror your milestone dates (RFP Schedule).

Stage One: Get Started and Exchange NDAs

In our example, we’ll use a positive outcome of the NDA stage as an indication of interest from the potential supplier. Alternatively, a solicitation stage could precede the NDA stage.

But before anything can happen in TakeTurns, we need to create a collaboration and invite the potential supplier: 

Kick off the RFx process by creating a TakeTurns collaboration
Kick off the RFx process by creating a TakeTurns collaboration

In the example collaboration, we created several folders to hold the content you distribute and collect throughout the process:

  • Agreements - Holds all the agreements or contracts you and your supplier negotiate
  • RFP Package - Contains your RFP materials
  • Supplier Response - Is where your supplier will upload all their materials

You’re free to utilize whatever folder structure you choose. The key is to start with clear content organization structures at the outset to help everyone find the files they need quickly. Keep in mind that the structure you start with is not required to remain static.  TakeTurns does not restrict your ability to add/modify/remove folders, documents, or document requests throughout your project’s lifecycle–enabling you to adapt the structure to best suit the requirements at the time.

With that in mind, at this stage in the setup, we do not yet provide the RFP Package.  That folder will be populated when the potential supplier returns the NDA.  To add the NDA draft, click the “Agreements” folder.  You can either drag and drop or use the “add file” button, to include your NDA in the collaboration.  You can add as many files as you need.  

And, as we mentioned above, you and the potential supplier could trade turns, for as long as necessary,  as you redline/review the NDA before moving to the next stage. TakeTurns will maintain both the cadence and document versions. This capability is also useful in other stages such as in the Negotiate Agreement stage.

Stage Two: Provide the RFP Package

In this stage, you will provide the RFx package to the potential supplier and make document collection requests for items you require in their response.  For example, future onboarding documents.   Since the potential supplier has successfully returned the executed NDA, you have confidence they are interested in moving forward with your process. 

In preparation, we recommend the following:

  • Organize all RFx content into a single folder on your computer or shared drive.
  • Simplify distribution by including as much content as necessary in documents. Typical documents: 
  • RFx timeline
  • Instructions to suppliers
  • Information security documents
  • The RFI/RFP questionnaire
  • Etc.

You may include any documents of any type you like here for loading into the RFP package folder in the collaboration.

Attaching documents to the collaboration removes the need to email attachments
Attaching documents to the collaboration removes the need to email attachments

Similar to the previous stage, click the folder where you want to add the content.  In this case, click the RFP Package folder since we’re adding the content you want your potential supplier to review.  Then “click and drag” the content from your computer and “drop” the files in the RFP Package folder in the TakeTurns Collaboration.  If you would like, you can “lock” the content to make it download-only. 

The potential supplier will place all their response content—questionnaire responses, supporting documentation, quotes, sample agreements, etc.—into the Supplier Response folder.   

Document collection requests act as visual to-dos for the other party
Document collection requests act as visual to-dos for the other party

If there is specific information you require such as onboarding documents, place document collection requests within the Supplier Response folder.  This would include the likes of W9s, insurance verification, etc. TakeTurns file/document collection requests are a great way to visually represent all the items that you’ll require from the potential supplier.

Stage Three: Receive Potential Supplier Response

At this stage, the potential supplier has provided their response. You’ll want to review the response and download the files to your local or shared drive where all the responses are being stored.  You can use the “Download all files” button to perform this task. 

Within TakeTurns, you may want to use the ‘Recap’ feature to see all the activities that have transpired and how the potential supplier responded to your requests.  

Recap shows how the other party responded to your requests
Recap shows how the other party responded to your requests

Once you’ve downloaded all the files, your team can review all the responses from the potential suppliers. During your review, there is no need to progress the collaboration (i.e., end your turn by either skipping or sending an update) until a decision or downselection has been made.  However, if a potential supplier’s response prompts a need for clarification or additional information, you may request it through another turn within the collaboration.

Once you choose or downselect a supplier, the chat can be used to inform your selected supplier and document collection requests can be employed to ask for contracts from the supplier. Of course, don’t forget to send a formal update to let the supplier know the good news.  TakeTurns' rich text turn notes are a great alternative for sending the formal notification upon requesting initial agreements. If you require suppliers to use your organization’s paper, you may alternatively supply those now rather than making requests for theirs.

Document collection requests help structure how the other party responds
Document collection requests help structure how the other party responds

Stage Four: Negotiate Agreement

By Stage Four, you will have selected or down-selected your preferred suppliers to one or two viable alternatives.  While in our example, we show the contracting process as part of the same collaboration, you may choose to put the contract stage into an entirely new collaboration.  One reason is that you may wish to add or remove stakeholders as needed to support the agreement negotiation process in the existing collaboration. The team trades turns with your selected supplier to redline agreements until negotiations are complete. 

TakeTurns tracks all the versions of the agreements
TakeTurns tracks all the versions of the agreements

Final Thoughts

TakeTurns is a terrific way to manage RFx processes. Its structured but flexible approach to collaboration significantly improves the interaction between buyers and suppliers during the entire process–unlike traditional RFx systems that can be quite rigid and cumbersome.

  • On top of features for document exchange, document collection, version control, and archiving, we’ve heard that concentrating all of the back and forth into one place makes it easy for everyone on both sides to remain aligned.  That not only improves productivity but also nurtures stronger supplier relationships by accommodating different working styles and reducing the complexity and stress of the procurement process.
  • While our example supported a simplified RFP process using a single multistage collaboration, this is just one of the ways the process could have been implemented. The flexibility of TakeTurns makes it adaptable to many procurement scenarios, for example, instead of a single, multistage collaboration the team could have elected for multiple parallel collaborations or a mix.  The choice is up to the team. Ultimately the team chooses the best structure to fit their needs.

In short,  for organizations looking to optimize their procurement operations and foster productive supplier relationships, TakeTurns brings structure, security, and transparency to your RFx processes. With TakeTurns, you and your potential suppliers will know whose turn it is to work, track the full history, and maintain confidentiality. Learn more about how purchasing professionals are using TakeTurns, and when you’re ready to improve the collaboration experience for your suppliers, subscribe to TakeTurns. It’s free for 30 days.

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