Intranet Upgrade: Picking the right agency
There comes a time when an intranet manager is faced with an intranet upgrade. Your intranet isn’t fit for purpose and the majority of your time is spent fixing things rather than developing and perfecting areas within. Does the thought of an upgrade excite you? Or make you break out in a fit of cold sweats? No matter what the reaction, an intranet upgrade is a big project that requires the right team internally and externally.
In a series of upcoming Intranetizen posts we will be looking at the different steps in achieving a successful intranet upgrade. This first post details the process behind securing an agency that understands your business and your project’s objectives.
Before we get into the detail of the vendor selection process, it is imperative to add that intranet managers must build a business case that details the vision of the intranet, the objectives, the desired outcomes and a list of requirements that cover both the employees and business (for more on developing a business case, see this piece from Prescient and another from Step Two).
No matter what your selected platform is, there are many intranet agencies out there waiting for your business. It’s not hard to build a comprehensive list, but it is beneficial to do your own research to be prepared. There are more formal ways to invite companies to tender, but in today’s world it can be as simple as posting a question on LinkedIn – in appropriate intranet groups of course! (A list of these groups can be found in our recent post networking for intranet managers.)
The Request for Information (RFI)
You now have a list of agencies who have expressed their interest to bid. This number could range from 5-20 but don’t let the larger numbers daunt you. I invited 16 companies to tender and I am glad I kept my invitation list open to anyone who wanted to participate. In order to whittle the number down, the first stage should be a RFI. The RFI document can vary in length, but the main areas of information are:
- Introduction: Purpose, Company Background & Overview
- Key Internal Contacts
- RFI Process (due dates)
- RFI Response Criteria
- Their Contact Details
- Client List
- Rate card
When the RFI is circulated be clear on the deadlines and any opportunities to clarify information in the RFI. I established one day where I held 45 minute clarification interviews. Not every agency will take part, but it is important to offer this.
Once you have received all the completed RFI submissions, it is time to evaluate the information with your steering team and grade the answers against your criteria.
The Request for Proposal (RFP)
You have now evaluated the agencies and have selected a smaller, more managable number to move to the RFP stage. Once the agencies have been notified it is time to circulate the RFP. Now, this is a more detailed document and takes time to prepare. Multiple documents will be sent to the agencies in order to help them accurately frame their proposal. The RFP document covers:
- Introduction: Purpose, Company Background & Overview
- Instructions to Vendors: Deadlines, Proposal Presentation & Budget of Project
- Evaluation and Selection: Panel, Criteria, Vendor Financial Information & References
- General Conditions: No Obligations, Vendor Expenses, No Contract & Conflict of Interest (the legal stuff)
- Appendix: Scope of Work & Technical Infrastructure
The first four categories explain themself. But the appendix is the real meat of the project. This is where you can highlight areas from your business case, project requirements and specifications. Be very clear and honest about your internal obstacles.
The pitch and close
This is the part that I really enjoyed and I am sure you will too. All your hard work and preparation will pay off as you sit back and watch the agencies convince you to pick them. I personally wouldn’t schedule any more than 90 minutes per presentation and would skip them detailing their experience. You already know they have the experience; they have made it this far. You want to know if they have that little spark. Therefore, I strongly suggest you set the agenda and focus on two areas: (1) how they would approach your project; and (2) how they approached a similar project with another company.
The case study is key to the pitch. The majority of time should be spent on this as they will need to walk you through the case study – from the beginning to the very end. This is the only way you will really know if they have the ability to do what you want. It also tells you if they have the experience, understand your goals and are able to pick an appropriate case study.
We suggest that you insist that the pitch team is the same as the ultimate delivery team should that agency be successful. The pitch is a great opportunity to see how the team work, the key dynamics and how they interact with you, the client. It also stops professional pitch teams producing the slickest of presentations and then handing over to the B squad to the get the work done.
If there is no clear winner, then it may be best to invite two agencies to a roundtable/scoping exercise. This would be joint effort by both your team and the agency to discuss the issues and refine their proposed budget. Hopefully after their revised submission you will be able to pick an agency that inspires confidence.
Remember, there is no need to overthink or overcomplicate the process. Be very clear about your goals and requirements and repeat them whenever you have the opportunity. The agencies involved will thank you for it. And you will end up with the right agency for your intranet upgrade.
If you have recently selected an agency did you do something similar? Do you have any other advice to share? Are you an intranet agency — what’s your take on the process. Please share your comments below!