No RFPs! Why Requests for Proposals are Bad for Business (and How We Can Stop Them)

If finding the perfect client or vendor is a bit like dating, then the RFP system is like online dating -- the worst kind, too. We search for "Drupal," get a long list of fuzzy pictures, dry statistics, cliche interests (long walks on the beach, higher conversion rates), and vague specifications. Using this (often misleading) information, we have to show up for our first rendezvous ready to commit to a year-long relationship. Is this true love or a marriage of convenience? Will we find out months later that we don't actually like each other? The RFP process strips vendors of their individuality and creativity, reducing their passion to a PDF overstuffed with boilerplate and little thumbnails of their amazing designers, developers, and project managers. Proposals tell you how good a vendor is at writing proposal, not how good their work is. (How many clients are looking to hire professional proposal writers?) In this panel, some of the world's top Drupal business development professionals will speak to the RFP process and other options. The strengths and weaknesses of RFPs will be identified, and creative alternatives will be discussed. If you are writing an RFP, this is your wake-up call. If you are bidding, come learn about your options. Let's architect a better process. Let's provide a solution that maximizes vendors' capabilities and speaks to clients' requirements -- all while building a project team that collaboratively delivers an amazing result. #NoRFPs! Panelists will include:
  • Todd Nienkerk (Partner, Four Kitchens)
  • Crystal Williams
  • Brian Skowron (Sales Manager, Lullabot)
  • Zach Chandler (Web Strategist, Stanford University)
This session will be a Drupal-specific version of a SXSW panel I'm on with Joe Rinaldi of Happy Cog: OMG your RFPs are killing me!
Time slot: 
Tuesday 10:45am-11:45am
Business and strategy
Experience level: 
Questions answered by this session: 
Vendors: Are RFPS good for my business? (And how can I tell?)
Vendors: What alternatives do vendors have when faced with responding to an RFP?
Clients: What are the advantages of establishing a vendor relationship outside an RFP?
Clients: How can I navigate through my internal procurement, purchasing, and legal departments to engage vendors outside an RFP?
Clients: What resources, stakeholders, budget, and documentation do I need to organize to start an evaluation process outside of an RFP?


There's no doubt that the RFP process bruises the soul. It's hard work and a huge cost, both to the procurer and the provider. It's also a nice idyll to think that we at DrupalCon could change the world (and maybe we can, who knows?) But in the end, isn't DrupalCon the wrong venue to be singing this song? Wouldn't it be more useful to the people attending if you taught them how to win at the RFP process? After all, the people writing RFPs are not likely to hear and heed your words of wisdom (at least not until they become Drupal customers), and the Drupal service providers attending might take away the mistaken message that the RFP process isn't something that they should be paying attention to.

I'd like to offer a counterpoint to this session - a session where we actually dig into the methods and techniques that are effective at winning business through the RFP process, and where we discuss the actual effort and teamwork that is needed:

It's great that the Drupal business ecosystem is evolving to the level where we can have these discussions. I hope both sessions get selected.



Wouldn't it be more useful to the people attending if you taught them how to win at the RFP process?

We will discuss how vendors can win projects, but we won't do it through the lens of RFPs. There are many alternatives to the RFP-proposal-review workflow, and they benefit both the vendor and client by ensuring a better fit. Choosing a vendor based on an RFP often yields the best proposal-writer, not necessarily the one who is best suited to the project.

This session's description moved me to register at and will be one of the key reasons I'll attend Drupalcon Denver. Todd, I'm hoping you really do have a procurement strategy I can take back home and use!

I would like to add that RFPs are also bad for one's complexion. See you guys in a few weeks! -J

Joe Bachana
President/Founder, DPCI
1560 Broadway, Suite 810
New York, NY 10036

After working on multiple exhausting RFPs, I can't wait to see a better alternative. I'll look forward to this one.

Advertising + Design

The audio is at like 10% of normal volume, even with all my mixer settings cranked up.

No luck here. The video plays only the first slide, and I can't hear anything.

I reeeeeally want to watch this session but the video is messed up - almost no audio and the video is only 2mins 30secs! Please, please fix this!!

Colorado mountains