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null Confessions of a Solution Manager: An insider’s guide to creating an RFP that drives results


According to our survey findings, many of the live Managed Service Programmes in Europe are not realising the desired benefits. In our latest whitepaper, we show why this happens and how to avoid it. Becoming a human capital catalyst provides the lessons learned from 61 complex business cases in Europe.

Within the survey results, we noticed that most of these failures can be linked back to the preliminary stages of the tender. In the chapter Provider Selection, we explain why the journey to launch a successful RFx needs to be inclusive and share several tips on how to get this right.

To bring some of these points to life for any contingent workforce programme buyers working on their next RFx, I bring you the soundtrack that seems to be on repeat every time a new MSP tender project lands on my desk as a Solution Manager.

Stairway To Heaven: The excitement that comes with a new project

Saying that I am passionate about my job might sound cliché, but the truth is that the work I do really does give me the chance to make a difference. It is tangible and can see organisations thrive, improve, expand, increase their resilience, and get a better return on investment. The moment an RFx lands on my desk, it is just the beginning of the journey, often a long one, that will get all parties involved working towards the same goal: an improved way to attract, hire and retain the best talent. I know we can co-design a service that will deliver results if we have good engagement with our client and if we have the right data and goals highlighted from the outset.

The enthusiasm, curiosity, eagerness to get my hands on every tender is hard to explain. Questions are starting to flow through my mind: “What is the story I am going to read in the brief sitting in front of me?”, “What is this organisation struggling with, what are their goals and how am I going to engage with them to bring more of the detail to the surface through my questions?”

So once I open and read the RFx brief sitting on my desk, more often than not, my level of enthusiasm decreases, and at the same time the number of questions soars as I end up thinking I learned so little about what the customer actually wants. But, be reassured, I do not give up. I start my own research. What is the right solution when I haven’t been given the problem statement?

I do not despair as I know I can rely on my colleagues and their expertise, so I engage with my sales directors. They are typically even more excited than I am: “huge opportunity, great client to work with, such an exciting project.” But even they often end up admitting even though we can see the client would benefit from a Managed Service Programme, we will not get the chance to learn all we need upfront, as there is a formality of process to pass through before getting to the details we want or simply the details are not yet available.

In the meantime, they ask can I please work on a high-level solution with a high-level implementation plan and pricing structure based on limited available information?

Highway To Hell: The challenges of creating a solution that will deliver results when the objectives are unknown

The teamwork starts, I gather my colleagues. We all want to be proactive, create a contingent workforce programme that will generate a positive impact on the users and stakeholders and will be sustainable in the long-term.

We go through the papers and the tables, we challenge, get challenged and get organised. We can all see the desperate need to design a programme that will put an order in the process, drive savings, enhance the engagement with workers and hiring managers and give the visibility stakeholders require and more importantly we can all see the risks of not doing it.

It is a bit like saying to a car dealer “I need a car please, which one do you recommend?”. It is hard for the car dealer to answer if they don’t know whether I will drive mostly in the city, the motorway or off-road; current and future family situation (kids – how many? How old? Dogs?), lifestyle (do I surf? ski? Will I use the car mainly for personal or business purposes?) and again do I prefer manual or automatic; new or second-hand; petrol or electric; what’s the budget? We all see I really need a car, but the car dealer just won’t know if they should recommend a coupe, a station wagon or a pickup.

Going back to our setting, the Bid team is frustrated as questions are too vague, the format is not fit for purpose (we all dislike Excel as a replacement for Word or Portals that don’t allow uploads of images that paint a far better description than only words). Our bid writers struggle to customise answers to the requirements of the customer because the detail simply isn’t there. Sometimes the key criteria for the award is 'Demonstrated ability to walk organisations through change” but half of the questions in the bid are organisational data that can be easily found on the website, the other half around pricing. If change management is a vital component, then we need details around what change is necessary to manage – what is the shape of your contingent staffing now? What do you want it to look like in the future and what tools do you have to enable this?

Our Implementation team is conflicted between offering a big bang vs phased roll-out decision with little or no information about maturity levels among the countries in scope, incumbent landscape, priority areas, technology and integrations requirements and most importantly whether the local stakeholders have been engaged.

Our Commercial team has to build numerous assumptions around worker tenures, TUPE requirements, skillsets split by business areas, average pay rates. Assumptions often undermine the attractiveness of the pricing we submit. The better the detail the less sensitivity around risks we need to build into the commercials.

The sales lead conceals the disappointment of not knowing what the customer wants or needs and instead tries to keep the team’s morale up and make sure everyone is still excited. They translate to the team what was possibly a very cold Q&A session with the client into an insightful discussion as possible.

Our client in the meantime is also running blindly, struggling to get internal stakeholders buy-in, having the right material to base his final decision on the provider, constantly receiving the request for extensions, managing changes in the process and making sure they are communicating these updates consistently and fairly. If they struggled to get the data before the RFP, it will be far worse during it.

I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For: When the RFP is not fit for purpose

The limitations I come across most often when reviewing contingent workforce project briefs are insufficient data (both historical and predicted), limited evidenced understanding of the trends that are shaping workforce solutions that do not reflect in the questions asked, a partial overview of the real driver of the RFP in terms of business needs and critical requirements.

Not involving the right stakeholders in the RFx process often means the project will likely change in scope and will require a brand new RFx shortly after, the project might even be cancelled as a whole due to lack of internal sign-off or worse, your MSP programme will fail, as it is not addressing all needs.

I Want It All: Sharing more will allow realistic offers

Sharing as much information as possible (data, forecasts, policies, processes) benefits both the client and the provider, allowing all parties to start modelling based on a real picture. Buyers can then leverage this solid foundation to challenge their MSP future providers to come up with creative solutions. Of course, this will make our job harder, but it will also prevent frustrations, inefficient rollouts and hidden costs further down the line. Give more, expect more, demand more. It will be worth it.

Download and read the Provider Selection Chapter of our new whitepaper to discover more on what to consider to align your RFP to your needs and... listen on repeat the MSP RFParty playlist.


Giulia Panna
EMEA Senior Bids and Solutions Manager, Hays Talent Solutions

Giulia joined Hays Talent Solutions in 2013 and she is responsible for making sure our solutions and proposals are in line with both our client’s requirements and Hays international capabilities. Starting out as a Trainee Bid Coordinator, she built up her experience dealing with different countries globally and managing stakeholders at board level to develop tailored and approved proposals.

She is currently in charge of the bid function in EMEA and acts as a European solution expert within the formal sales process, engaging with Operations, Implementation, Sales, Legal, Marketing and Commercial stakeholders but also Technology partners, to deliver insights, expertise, and support the design of a resourcing solution for a client from concept to delivery.

This role has given her a deep understanding of MSP, RPO, local complexities and technology solutions in Europe. She lived in three different countries, is fluent in English and Italian and holds a Master degree in International Business, Contingent Workforce Professional (CCWP) certification released by Staffing Industry Analyst and the APMP certificate released by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals.