How to Write an RFP for a Successful ServiceNow Implementation

  • July 11, 2019
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If you are starting on your ServiceNow journey, chances are you’re excited (and maybe a bit overwhelmed) about the transformation your company is about to undertake. For this reason, most companies choose to undergo this journey by engaging with a ServiceNow partner, to help you with your implementation process.

That means the first step in your journey will be writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to determine the best partner for your needs. So, how can you make sure that you’re choosing the right partner? With almost 100 ServiceNow RFP responses written (and won) in the past year alone, we’re here to help you build the best template to generate the best results for your partner search!

An RFP allows you to gather information from multiple vendors to help you decide which ServiceNow partner will be the best fit for your implementation needs — and more importantly, your holistic digital transformation journey.

Over the past six years, we’ve seen RFPs change from tactical ServiceNow implementations to these massive digital transformation catalysts. The exercise of writing RFP questions (and reviewing potential vendor answers) is no longer about just searching for a vendor to help you implement the technology. It’s about searching for a partner who understands your business goals.

The seven components to writing an extraordinary ServiceNow RFP

1. Provide a clear vision

The way to get the best outcome for your ServiceNow implementation is to start with a vision — not a list of what you want a vendor to help you build. Key questions may include:

  • What are the processes you’re doing today?
  • What are the business problems you’re trying to solve?
  • What’s working well today and what needs to be improved?
  • What’s a must-have vs. nice to have?

By clearly outlining what you are looking to achieve with ServiceNow, you'll get a more insightful and consultative answer in your response. Remember, you’re seeking a third-party vendor because they are the experts in what they do (hopefully), so by stating your vision they can guide you in the actual ServiceNow products that'll give you the best result and avoid the typical “gotchas.”

For example, before becoming a client of ours, a large health insurance company included a vision map, which included a vision statement and guiding principles, it its RFP.

Even the most experienced consultants will be loath to suggest an alternative to what you’ve already proposed for yourself. So, don’t make your job harder than it needs to be. Set the vision and let the consultants do their job.

2. Ask vendors for an executive summary

In the executive summary section of your RFP, you should ask vendors for their qualification to implement and consult on your project. This section should roughly consist of a one-page response from your responding ServiceNow partners.

This is also the section where the best partners should truly differentiate themselves. Effective responses should include:

  • Proposed ServiceNow key solution requirements after deep consideration of your company’s vision. Hint: In your RFP, provide an architecture diagram of what’s in place today. If you provide prospective vendors with what your solution looks like before, you'll get creative afters!
  • Vendor’s experience with similar industry project rollouts
  • Size and breadth and depth of ServiceNow practice
  • Description of what sets that vendor apart from others in the ServiceNow ecosystem
  • Summary of implementation approach (including timeline, governance, organizational support, and organizational change management, use cases)
3. Give vendors a timeline to respond (but also demand a recommended project timeline, too!)

First, when you are applying for proposals from ServiceNow partners, remember to include a timeline with deadlines that include things like when the responses are due, when RFP evaluation will be completed and when the finalists will be announced.

Lesson: You’re going to get what you give. If you only give five days for a vendor to respond, chances are you won’t get the quality response you’re looking for. In your response, you should expect to receive a thoughtful timeline from your vendor about the proposed project. We break down our projects to include a series of phases:

  • Initiate and define phase (establish high-level build architecture, governance model, project and story planning, roadmap, advisory or health check)
  • The plan and build stage (configuration of the solution is completed with regular sprint reviews for client feedback)
  • The test and transition phase (release testing, client acceptance testing, OCM, training, enablement documentation)

A reasonable, well-documented timeline that includes testing, organizational change management and training will indicate that your prospective partner understands both the power of ServiceNow and the full scope of your project. Look carefully at the architecture and sprint review process to suss out how well your partner understands your existing framework, and what it'll be like to work with them. Ultimately, we find that our clients are looking for more than “an implementor,” but a partner that will help guide your project and drive real business value.

4. Governance model

The first step to any successful ServiceNow transformation (and the ongoing management of the platform) is establishing a governance model. Ask vendors for their recommendations for the breakdown of what a team might look like, considering roles and responsibilities — not for the project itself but for the platform. This is a key area we see differentiating technical implementations from digital transformation journeys.

The governance and project management sections are also good places to ask how many of the core team will stay with your organization throughout your transformation journey. You want to make sure that your sales team isn’t rolling out their top talent, only to switch them out for more junior resources once you sign on the dotted line.

5. Organizational Change Management (OCM)

OCM is the “people side” of change management. It is a framework for managing the effect of new business processes, technological processes and changes in your organizational structure or even cultural changes within an enterprise. OCM and OCM strategies set expectations and provide the tools needed to learn new behaviors.

OCM is the “people side” of change management. It is a framework for managing the effect of new business processes, technological processes and changes in your organizational structure or even cultural changes within an enterprise. OCM and OCM strategies set expectations and provide the tools needed to learn new behaviors.

6. Sample projects, case studies and references

Always ask to see case studies from the vendors you are considering. It’s important to know you can trust your vendor in not only their technical expertise of the platform but their expertise working with clients in a similar industry and size as your own organization.

Break down at least three projects and client size, client industry, solutions provided, and business objectives achieved by the client.

7. Partner plan: will you work well together?

Ultimately, partner methodology comes down to asking, “how do we better partner with one another?” In this section of your RFP, ask vendors what their methodology is and compare it with how your own internal team works.

The completeness of the methodology is important. You should be asking “how” – how do you build workshops? How do you gather requirements? How do you execute and build? How do you perform testing? How do you define your OCM plan? How does this all work on-site? These open-ended questions will help you determine if the responding vendor is the right fit for your organization. Beware of boiler-plate responses, what you want if to understand the heart of what your future consultancy will be like (and not have someone who's answering to tick off a box).

Finally, the last step of writing a killer RFP: Do your back-end homework! Check what their references say about them. Talking to others who have worked with your prospective team is the only way you’ll be able to confirm the vendors perspective on methodology and partnership.

Another element to your RFP is making sure that financial investment is “apples to apples” across partners. For example, if you’re comparing total hours, and one partner includes a testing phase, and one does not, then clearly the partner will be more expensive up-front but save you a lot of time in rework down the road.

As you can tell, the RFP process is more than just vetting if a partner can implement the technology. You want to vet if they will be a cultural fit for your company if they see your vision and understand your overall desire for digital transformation and confirm they’re also an expert in the people and process side of the implementation.

Overall, we suggest sending out five RFPs to partners you have done research on through the partner portal — think about it, if you’re requesting thorough responses, how many of those do you want to read?

Ready to create an RFP to drive true digital transformation? Download our resource kit.

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