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EarthLink Guide RFPs for NSPs 2016

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  1. 1. RFPs for NSPs: A guide to writing a request for proposal to find the best network service provider to help transform your business www.earthlink.com
  2. 2. 2 The process of identifying and purchasing technology products and services required to operate a business can vary widely, depending on the size and nature of the organization and the products being acquired. In some cases, it might take just a few phone calls or clicks of a mouse to identify the right supplier and get the purchase process moving. In others, it may take months of discussion, proposals and negotiations. Sometimes the nature of the process will depend on the complexity of whats being acquired. The more complex the product or service, the more thorough the process. Note we did not say the process must also be complex. To the contrary; as longtime sellers of networking solutions, we also know a thing or two about buying them. That process is getting harder as enterprise IT continues to quickly evolve, relying increasingly on the cloud. This in turn creates added interest in rapidly growing technologies including hybrid WANs, managed security and software-defined wide area networks. To help keep that process from getting too complicated, we present the following guide to enable IT leaders to write the best possible Request for Proposal (RFP) or to implement a slightly less formal process to identify and acquire the possible network service provider (NSP) to help them establish and maintain a competitive edge.
  3. 3. 3 Searching for a network service partner, not just a provider Before explaining how to build a strong RFP, its important to identify the goal of writing one, especially with regard to hiring an NSP ideally suited to the needs of your business. Note when we say NSP, we emphasize the P should stand for partner; not simply provider. The difference may sound like semantics, but it runs deeper than that. To identify which provider can become a true partner, you may need to go through a full RFP process. Or, you may be able to do something less formal or structured, simply asking a few potential companies for their thoughts and an informal quote. Either way, leave room for them to share some innovative, creative thinking to show they have the resources and people to help you succeed. Remember, while technology and being a provider has become a commodity, being a partner has not. A partner will express an interest in understanding your business in order to provide a solution that addresses your challenges. Then theyll present a recommendation that addresses your stated needs or even go above and beyond and shows they do in fact understand them. Ideally, they will do this in a way that helps you see things from a beneficial new point- of-view. A provider, on the other hand, will not necessarily show you things you didnt expect. Theyll do what a typical vendor would; address your questions with by the book answers, without sharing any ideas you didnt expect. Partner Provider
  4. 4. 4 Topline RFP dos and donts Following is a brief list of dos and donts for conducting a search process for an NSP. Keep in mind, while you may want to engage in a true RFP (Request for Proposal) process to obtain a strategic response from your targeted NSPs, you might also consider an RFQ (Request for Quote) for a non-strategic response with pricing. Another alternative is to conduct an even more informal process by issuing an RFI (Request for Information). EarthLink is seeing more of these, owing to the rapidly evolving nature of the market and services, which has made it more difficult to compare vendors on a truly objective feature, function and price basis. Ultimately, the format you choose depends on how much insight you expect from, or freedom you want to give, to your respondents. Be sure to use the one most relevant to your needs. If you use a consultant, make sure they do the same. RFP dos Begin with a well-informed approach Outline goals in a way that will get the most objective accurate information from all prospective vendors. Leave room for innovation Give the NSP a chance to sell, to analyze the challenge, share how to address it in a new or even transformative way, and truly showcase their experience. If youre not open to this, say so; dont make them guess and/or risk disqualification. Detail what you wish to accomplish Be honest and true to that goal. Be specific Specific questions get specific answers. So be clear. Can you deliver a total solution? Can you provide a single interface that provides insight into billing, bandwidth allocation and more? These are our expectations for service and support, etc. Gauge their commitment to partnership You are looking for a committed partner. Probe for this to see what sort of customer satisfaction guarantee they might have, and how they measure it.
  5. 5. 5 RFP donts Some specifics to look for in the RFP process Do they have a portal; a single pane to drill down and customize to see what you want (latency, visibility, billing, bandwidth, etc.)? This is essential, since your time is valuable and logging into multiple sites to get the data needed sidetracks you from your business and requires learning different systems. This will become even more important as you move to SD-WAN, even if you are outsourcing, so either way, your success depends on this data. How will they service/support your business? Do they assign a project manager or conduct weekly, monthly or quarterly business reviews? And how does this match the level of support required by your team and your network? Do you have access to their leadership team? Everyone cant but if you are of a certain size, they should offer this. How can you have your voice heard by their management team? There needs to be an outlet for the voice of customer. Make it complicated Be sure its not difficult to respond to. Make it clear so the NSP can show the benefits they can bring to your organization. Otherwise, you may end up exactly where you began. Use a consultant that doesnt know your business If they dont know your company, your industry or your goals, the outcome may show it. Feel you need to do a full RFP if something else works better An RFQ/RFI can be equally good; so can asking for an informal response. For example, I have ___ quoting this, tell me your thoughts, too. Be ambiguous If you need non-standard implementation procedures or CPE, have extensive legal or regulatory requirements, or anything that might change things, say so.
  6. 6. 6 A few final thoughts The process of finding the right NSP a Network Service Partner needs to be fair and true to both your organization and to the NSPs you invite to the process. By following the guidelines and ideas shared here, youll stand a great chance of success. To help you map out a specific written RFP, see the sample RFP template on the following pages. With the pace of change taking place in the network space, be sure to give the NSPs a chance to address your needs and let their capabilities shine too. Remember, you need to feel good about the selection youll make. You and your company will win or lose based on this, so make sure it works for you; use it to open up to new ideas, not to suppress them. Finally, keep in mind the technology is mostly a commodity. The rest is about management, relationships, who youre buying from and what kind of partner they will be. Understand that all NSPs are NOT created equal, and that you may need to read between the lines of the RFP response to really tell them apart. Be sure to begin with an RFP which keeps that in mind.
  7. 7. 7 Sample RFP Template for Evaluating Network Service Providers Supplement to RFPs for NSPs, a guide to writing a request for proposal to find the best network service provider for your business Following is a sample template guideline for a general NSP RFP. Specific modifications can be made depending on service need. Dont be afraid to consult with a trusted contact at an NSP for objective input to be sure your design covers everything needed and that it leaves room for the NSP to share insightful ideas that showcase their value as a true Network Service Partner. RFP cover: RFP name, brief description, issue date, statement of confidentiality note answers to these sections do not need to be long, some can be as short as a few sentences 1. General info for providers basic introduction 1.1. Company background 1.2. Purpose of RFP 1.3. Contract period and extensions / Best and final offer 1.4. Point of contact 1.5. Timeline for process 1.6. Definition of terms (buyer, provider, store, data center, etc.) 1.7. Instructions for response 1.8. Submission costs 1.9. Confidential information 1.10. Rejection or acceptance of responses 1.11. Selected provider responsibilities 1.12. Sub-contracting (responsibility of NSP vs. sub) 1.13. Penalties for non-performance 1.14. News releases / publicity 2. Statement of work 2.1. Objectives and goals Desired supplier qualities 2.2. Uses of the networks 2.3. Technical requirements and features sought 2.4. Existing network/services (design, architecture, schematics, etc.) 2.5. Network proposals 2.5.1. Base proposal Direct response to our request, including price MRC (monthly recurring charge) 2.5.2. Alternate base proposal Not simply what we asked for; rather, what you think we need, or another transformative idea to share, including price MRC 2.5.3. Non-recurring charges (NRC) 2.5.4. Taxes and fees 2.5.5. Bandwidth flexibility 2.5.6. Changes to locations due to growth, downturn, or economy 2.5.7. Future applications and diagrams
  8. 8. Sample RFP Template for Evaluating Network Service Providers (continued) 2.6. Performance service level agreement 2.6.1. Service availability, latency, throughput, jitter, availability 2.6.2. Responding to network problems 2.6.3. Scheduled maintenance 2.7. Project planning and network launch 2.7.1. Installation of services 2.7.2. Special requirements 2.7.3. Project plan Project summary schedule Project status meetings and contingency planning Testing and acceptance plan 3. Supplier information 3.1.1. Supplier name, address, contact information 3.1.2. Supplier strategy (who are you, why should I buy from you) 3.1.3. Project experience 3.1.4.Billing 3.2.Service/Support 3.2.1. Specific recommendation based on stated expectations (who will be assigned, 24/7 availability, frequency/type of reviews) 3.2.2. Self-service portal (can you provide a single customizable interface/pane of glass providing insight into billing, bandwidth, performance, etc.) 3.2.3. Customer satisfaction (what customer satisfaction guarantees are offered, approach to measurement, how often is it measured?) 3.2.4. Escalation/how will our voice be heard as needs change? 4. Response conditions 4.1. Contract terms and conditions 4.2. Proof of insurance 4.3. Format of response/instructions (letter of transmittal, etc.) 5. Criteria for selection (table with criteria and scoring structure) 6. Appendix locations 8 Contact us at 844-856-1204 [email protected] | www.earthlink.com 2016 EarthLink. Trademarks are property of their respective owners. All rights reserved. MKTPRINT-403 N-CO 8.1

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