ARTS Streamlines Proposal Process

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Jan 16, 2006
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By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting


The Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) is the National Retail Federation’s Technology Standards group. Probably one of the most underutilized tools retailers have for making an information technology investment are the ARTS request for proposal (RFP) Templates.


Hopefully, you are not constantly changing your business processes, so both small and large IT projects can be one-time events for the participants. Whatever the project, the first six months will probably determine your overall success. This is when the enthusiasm is greatest and neither users nor IT have discovered just how difficult it is going to be complete the project. This is exactly when you can use the ARTS RFPs because they serve to jump start the whole process, level set the team as to what must be done and allow management to keep the size of the project within their intended scope.


ARTS is conducting several presentations at the NRF Show in New York to raise awareness and announce new RFPs for additional functional areas. There are currently RFPs for POS requirements, POS loss prevention, signature capture, workforce management and price life cycle optimization. Each RFP consists of a master agreement portion that describes the participants and overall RFP process, and a features and functions portion that describes the various characteristics considered for a particular functional area. The number of features captured ranges from 135 to 2500 for the various RFPs.


Two consulting firms shared the dais with the ARTS presenters.


Frank Urbaniak of C-Core Retail Consulting presented their Rapid Project Toolkit, which extends the ARTS RFP to include the additional project aspects associated with scope definition, vendor selections and actual project management. A toolkit is currently available for the POS Requirements RFP and others are in development.


Dennis Blankenship of Clicks & Mortar Consulting presented the Superior-hosted RFP process. The Superior approach follows six steps: authoring, publishing, vendor collaboration,
vendor submission, scoring, and terms of purchase to make the vendor selection. The whole process is conducted online, with initial content coming from the ARTS RFP and then extended
through dialogues between the retailer and the vendors and recorded online.


Moderator’s Comment: What are some of the barriers to kicking off a major IT project? Do you think it makes sense to use an industry RFP as the starting
point for a project? Are you familiar with the ARTS RFPs? If you have used the RFPs, what has been your experience?


I believe this concept makes so much sense I don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage of it. Just like writing a term paper, looking at that
blank page when you begin an IT project can be paralyzing. The use of the RFPs is essential. Their design makes them easily customized and the extensions offered by firms like
C-Core make them even more user friendly. Actually combining the ARTS features with the C-Core extensions and the Superior RFP management tools provides a huge edge to getting
a new project underway.

Bill Bittner – Moderator

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6 Comments on "ARTS Streamlines Proposal Process"


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Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Many industries, especially in the technology area, are using collaboration to develop basic tools, technologies, and platforms. Once the basic standards are developed, individual companies build on the basics to put their own stamp on it or develop their own applications. Using a basic template that has been proven to be acceptable is a way to avoid making common mistakes over again and getting a head start on your own application. Taking the basic information and adopting it with no adaptation to your own company would be foolhardy but so would ignoring this valuable resource.

Blazing Fox
Guest
Blazing Fox
15 years 1 month ago
We vendors certainly have the most to gain from it. Imagine finally being able to put together canned responses to RFP’s. We spend so much time just trying to interpret questions that each RFP ends up being extremely costly. Having standardized questions/responses/formats would reduce our costs tremendously. On the other hand, I think that retailers and their consultants are less likely to benefit. Retail consultants who make a living putting together RFP’s will surely feel contempt for the new canned approach. Retailers will also potentially suffer as the canned responses from vendors degenerate into pure marketing spiel. Still, there is a sweet spot where a retailer could save money by starting with a standardized RFP and hire a retail consultant to fill in any unique requirements. As a side note, I was recently involved with our first RFP that was supposedly based on the ARTS RFP templates. I can’t say that I was very impressed. Like everything the ARTS group does, it was overdone with many overlapping questions. We spent more time on that RFP… Read more »
Don Delzell
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Don Delzell
15 years 1 month ago

Having an industry specific RFP to begin with is an extraordinary time saver. One of the most difficult aspects of developing an RFP from scratch is the “you don’t know what you don’t know” feeling. I’ve done a number of software evaluations for clients, and have always, without exception, started from someone else’s RFP. I’ve asked the vendors to send me RFP’s that previous clients have sent them…all as a starting point.

This shouldn’t produce too much dialogue. As has already been noted, it is not rocket science to leverage someone else’s work. Caveat: template RFP MUST be adapted to the specific requirements that the individual retailer thinks are unique to their business practices.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 1 month ago
I met a successful businesswoman and we fell in love. But before I could buy a ring and get down on one knee, she sent me an RFP (I almost “went Gene Hoffman” there). To her credit, the RFP was not a boilerplate, but a highly-personalized pre-pre-nup. A lot of thought and introspection went into it. Supermarket veterans are all familiar with the comment, “Our customers are different, and no one knows them like we do.” This “chain chauvinism” is totally misplaced and without merit, yet persists in the minds of retail leaders who honestly believe that novelists should write special versions for “our customers” and that network news programs should do the same. So, to adapt/adopt a boilerplate RFP would be counterintuitive for them. Yet, retail leaders by and large are incapable of – and uninterested in – the depth of introspection required for a meaningful, personalized IT RFP. Thus, the emergence of extremely well-designed, standardized boilerplates by ARTS and others. A truly successful provider/bidder, however, will do the requisite homework to personalize the… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
Standardizing RFPs, especially in an industry which has few standards is a good idea. However, when it involves technology and the incredible speed at which it moves, it is better instead to customize the RFP. Using the templates as a guideline is great, but nothing more. Most companies have difficulty enough with system implementation, determining the timing and costs of technology implementations. Centralized, decentralized, and distributed processing environments are all factors which contribute to this. In the end, user computing environment are the critical factor which most companies neglect. IT personnel often act as consultants to the end users and manage centralized data repositories, like data warehousing. Many times this makes it difficult to implement controls and processes which are required in a new technology assessment or implementation like the System Development Life Cycle which is an IT standard. The risks associated with moving IT responsibility down to the user is lack of data integrity, lack of standards, and in some cases, a lack of security. The balance point will, most likely, end up being… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
There are several ways to start an IT project, and using ARTS RFP templates as a guide is certainly one way. But some of the other ways can be more appropriate, and certain ways can be combined. It’s like buying a suit. You can ask other people you trust where they got theirs and what they paid. Or you can go from store to store and see which suits feel right. You can go to a tailor and get one custom-made. You can look at catalogs and magazine ads to get ideas. Except for custom-made suits, it’s likely that the suit you buy won’t fit perfectly, so it will need alteration. If you’ve shopped well, the alterations will be minor, inexpensive, and done in a few days. Unless price and time are not critical, it certainly pays to look at ready-made suits before hiring the custom tailor. And if the suit is good but not perfect, it’s not a disaster because you’ll buy more than one suit in your life. So you can use the… Read more »
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