In a recent post, RFP’s for Publishing Services, Maverick CEO, Rebecca Rinehart, examined the process of negotiating publishing service agreements – from identifying your goals through the steps for assessing and selecting the right publisher. In this follow-up post, Maverick Senior Associate, Stephen Laverick, leads us through the process of compiling, issuing, and assessing responses to Request for Proposals (RFP) for Production services, such as Conversion and Composition Services.
Deciding Upon Your Requirements
With any RFP process the most important work that you will do is in deciding what your requirements are. If you are clear about these requirements, then the respondents will be able to provide much clearer responses and ultimately make your assessment of the responses more efficient.
If this isn’t the first time that an RFP has been issued it is always a good idea to review the documentation and responses to the previous RFP. You may find that many of the current requirements have not changed since last time and are able to repurpose much of the content. With the benefit of hindsight, you can also tell which parts of the previous RFP documentation need refining in order to give you the desired results this time around.
Carrying out this review alongside an audit of existing workflows will help you to understand the requirements that you have as well as the kind of information that potential respondents will need in order to provide a comprehensive response that speaks specifically to your requirements.
In auditing your existing workflows be sure to speak with internal staff who not only have direct interaction with the existing vendor but also to those who deal with the documents up and downstream from the vendor to understand their needs and suggestions for improvements in existing processes.
What were efficient, seamless workflows following implementation of a previous RFP process can easily become bloated and unscalable as workarounds for new requirements have found their way into the processes. Now is a great time to refamiliarise yourself with your workflows and make efficiency gains as those workarounds are identified and catered for within your RFP requirements.
Once you have a good handle on the needs of your existing workflow it can also be useful to consider areas that you may not be addressing in these processes. Are you satisfied with the Accessibility features of your existing offering? Are the formats that you are offering to readers still appropriate, or should you be offering additional formats? Does your hosting platform vendor have any features that you can’t currently take advantage of but could do with a change in deliverables? What are your competitors doing?
If you’re producing both journals and books, is there any scope to consolidate these to a single vendor and attempt to take advantage of the scale that offers in order to negotiate a lower unit price? Conversely, if you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket then try and batch similar products together so that each vendor is limiting the functionality that they need to provide – and thus limiting the price they will need to charge.
The industry is constantly developing, and vendor offerings now are a lot different to they were five years ago. Examine the changing landscape of vendor offerings to see if there is any new functionality that might make your life easier or specifically tackle some of your pain points.
Avoid any blue sky thinking in your RFP: if you can base your requirements on proven functionality that you know is already out there you will likely get a much better response that can address your requirements specifically.
Pulling Your RFP Documents Together
So now you’re in a position to be able to fully scope out your requirements and create your RFP documents. A good place to start is actually at the end by simply stating what the ultimate goal is. You don’t even have to keep this in the RFP documentation but stating your goal at this early stage can help to keep you focused throughout the creation of the RFP documentation.
Whilst describing your requirements try to avoid telling the potential respondents how to do their job. Each respondent will likely have their own ways of reaching the same end point and will have expertise and experience in doing so. Describe what it is that you want to achieve and leave the intricacies of how they do it to the experts.
Assessing the Responses
Once you start to review your responses it is worth reading through them a few times wearing different hats. What might seem an overly technical response could just be because they are passionate about their product and want to tell you all about how it works. Of course, if they’re just trying to baffle you with science then that is a different matter altogether.
This entire process is about finding a partner that you can trust, who will understand what it is that you are trying to achieve and that has the capability to help you do so. You need to ask yourself whether you think the vendor has fully understood your requirements, and if so, are their responses honest, reasonable and accurate. If a vendor is pushing back on some of your requirements, then ask yourself why – have you been overly ambitious, it can be beneficial and educational to try to understand why there may be limitations in what you are asking for rather than blindly writing such a response off in favour of a response which promises you the moon on a stick.
During the discussion phases of the RFP don’t be afraid to ask the vendors what they see as being pain points or limitations in the requirements, you may well end up with a more efficient workflow as a result of this input.
Ultimately you will be working closely with the winning vendor so it is important that you choose someone with whom you can have a productive relationship. Lastly, be sure to give them the help that they need to make that relationship a success for everyone.
Learn more about how Maverick can help with RFP’s for production services here.
By Stephen Laverick, Senior Associate
Stephen has over 25 years’ experience in scholarly publishing, primarily focused on digital publishing solutions. During his time as Technical Director at The Charlesworth Group, Stephen was instrumental in overseeing the development of robust, scalable, and efficient XML-first workflows for OA mega journals for the likes of PLOS, Nature and RSC, as well as tailoring solutions around specific publisher requirements. Stephen later worked with Edanz Editing in a role focused on ensuring that the company’s “publication process” based suite of author services met the needs of the publishing community by forming and managing collaborative partnerships with a wide range of both publishers and third parties to create efficient workflows. Stephen also has experience with Typefi Systems, working in a Business Development role with EMEA customers to integrate Typefi’s single-source publishing platform into seamless end-to-end automated workflows. He has been with Maverick for 5 years, working on a wide range of projects as well as involvement in Business Development activities.