New technology implementations often run over budget, stretch beyond proposed completion dates, and don’t live up to expectations. A bleak statement, sure. But this scenario plays out all too often for licensing agencies when they go through the process of replacing legacy record-tracking systems for what they hope is “state-of-the-art” technology that will manage and automate a wide range of permits, licenses, code enforcement, inspections, etc. and related workflows.
How do you avoid this fate? Believe it or not, it starts with the request for information (RFI) and request for proposal (RFP).
Most licensing agencies, however, don’t take the time to build-out detailed requirements before sending out RFIs and RFPs to potential technology vendors and implementation partners. And this only sets both entities up for failure, as it increases the likelihood of developing a system that doesn’t meet the organization’s needs long-term.
Here’s the challenge. Often, licensing agencies have very generic requirements in their RFP’s because they simply don’t know how to articulate what they need. They’re too close to the work and process. Sound familiar?
The good news is, with some upfront preparation, and taking the time to get clear on your team’s workflow and subsequent technological requirements, you’ll be better positioned to not only select the right tech partner, but also keep costs and expectations realistic for both sides of the partnership.
The following are some steps you and your team can take to build a more effective RFP, and ultimately align with a partner and technology that’s built to work for—and evolve with—the business.
Step 1: Get Stakeholders Involved
The first and likely most important step is to get the individuals who are actually on the frontlines of the work involved in the RFP process. One common pitfall is to only gather input from the leadership team. Important, but they can be too far removed from daily tasks and that creates a different perspective on operational requirements vs. the reality of in-the-field functionality.
Bringing together interdepartmental stakeholders from divisions like IT, procurement and accounting, for example, can help identify the gaps and create a more detailed RFP that reflects the true nature of work and investment. It also shows employees—whose operations will be significantly impacted by this new system—that you value their input, which helps with adoption later on.
Another essential stakeholder group to integrate at this point is your customers. Seek to understand what’s most important to them. Where do they routinely get hung up? What most frustrates them about the current experience? What do they like? Get their input via surveys or one-on-one conversations and incorporate this into your RFP, where it makes sense. This will set you up better meet or exceed their expectations down the line.
Step 2: Create and Document A Workflow Of Your Current Processes
Work with your internal stakeholders to document their current process workflows. Conduct this step in an environment where employees feel secure enough to share honest insights. Make clear that they don’t need to fear getting reprimanded for speaking up about perceived inadequacies.
Now is the time to drill down on which steps and procedures to keep, and which to update or remove altogether. Too many system upgrades simply apply automation to manual processes that could otherwise be consolidated or removed, which does little to improve efficiency. Documenting these procedures has benefits beyond just preparing for a system upgrade—it also helps to get leadership and all team members on the same page operationally.
Step 3: Conduct An Internal and External Audit
What does your team want to see in this new system? What type of capabilities will be most helpful in getting their job done? Take a moment also to consider which problems you’re continually solving for customers, and how a new system can best save time and solve those issues for you. Evaluate these recurring customer questions and group them into categories so that you can assess where your team spends the majority of its time. How can a system-fix best address those questions?
Next, review your state and local statutes to compare them to what’s truly being asked of applicants. Perhaps there is even an opportunity somewhere to reduce the length of applications. Likewise, which of your forms need updating before moving to digital? Forms will never be perfect, since requirements are constantly changing, but getting a good baseline ahead of time will better inform the RFP process and make the system buildout run more smoothly. It also makes future form updates easier to complete.
The final steps in crafting an effective RFP is to get an understanding of where your processing speeds are currently. How long does it take to process an application, service request or investigation? Look at production and quality rates, as well as customer satisfaction scores. Getting these baseline metrics will enable you to track improvement once the technology is implemented and see which areas of the process require further adjustment.
Sure, this process takes more time and effort in the preparation phase, but it will save time and money on the backend. The right tech partner will see the value in a comprehensive RFP. And, ticking through all of these steps will help your agency identify areas where technology can assist in improving productivity, and employee and customer satisfaction.