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Getting the Right Request for the Systems On-Hand?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the requests-for-purchase dept.

Businesses 15

Techmaniac asks: "As a newly minted employee at [insert org name] I have been tasked with creating an RFP to secure a vendor for helpdesk/sysadmin services. Currently, we have a single individual that does all the relevant tasks for a small organization of less than 100 people. My boss has explained that the needs are for onsite helpdesk, backend support, systems admin but that she doesn't know what or how much the current person does on any given day. Having done (using the term loosely) some of this work for a smaller org, it is possible for me to create an RFP for the company. I have been here such a short time that I wouldn't want to miss any of the important tasks, nor would it set my tenure off to a rousing start. Has anyone else been in this situation? Do you have any insight into the mandatory RFP inclusions for a vendor provided sysadmin, helpdesk work? Is it within this document to dictate how many people should be onsite for the task and what can be accomplished remotely?"

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Why don't you just go back... (2, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14031443)

And tell your boss you don't know where to start. You're a new employee and you're not expected to know everything. There's a possibility that your boss reads slashdot. There's also a possiblity that you won't get good advice. In any case, tell her that you're confidence level with your ability to do this task is not high and you may need some help.

Re:Why don't you just go back... (2, Interesting)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14031826)

Really. You're being asked to help can a person that's probably doing a fine job, and likely result in higher costs. If the person doing the job is well liked, you can count on you not being be well liked when word leaks out on how it went down.

Further, it sounds like you've stepped into a snakepit in terms of software politics and hidden agendas.

Good luck.

Toss the Handgrenade Away (1)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14038607)

In all honesty, this sounds a lot like an internal "hatchet" job to me. I'd be all for getting rid of the handgrenade. As the previous poster noted, you will likely NOT be making any friends if you "get someone fired". The reality of the situation notwithstanding, I'd be very curious as to why they have such a new person tasked with such an important project "out of the chute". You have not even had time to get a feel for what is needed, much less be able to write an appropriate RFP or RFQ for the necessary services.

Have you asked your boss why they are considering outsourcing when this is going to be a permanent, on-going need? I'd also ask your boss rather pointedly, but in private, if there are issues with the person they have now. Keep in mind that "issues" can cover everything from technical ability to personality conflict with a politically powerful customer. What ever those issues are need to be addressed with the person in question, rather than going to an outside vendor. The person that the vendor sends you may not be any better, and could in fact be much worse than the person you have now.

I'd like to point out that you have less control and higher costs when you bring in contractors. Why not just hire a help desk grunt and a sys admin for day to day stuff? You can always bring in contractors on a per-project basis later for really complex, time consuming things like implementing back ups or massive network upgrades. If you have a $9.00/hour help desk monkey, you'll be paying the vendor $30/hour to have him there. Just hire the $9.00 monkey yourself. It's much easier.

Perhaps your boss doesn't feel qualified to conduct the technical part of the interview. For a fee, I'd be happy to vet the applicants technically :)

2 cents,

Queen B

Documentation (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 8 years ago | (#14031513)

You've got the work orders for the last, say 6 months, right?

If the person is documenting their job, as they should be, it should be easy to find out what/how much they are doing.

Re:Documentation (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14031697)

Yeah right. Chances are the single person is too busy to keep up with the requests, let alone formally documenting what is happening. (Why else would management want to invest in a solution?)

It seems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14031534)

I have just missed a golden opportunity to get the frist p0st. I fail it. But that's okay, Laetitia still loves me.

Wrong place to ask . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14032032)

. . . unless the individual who does all the work now reads here. Go ask him, he knows. In fact, delegate or get your boss to delegate the task to him.

he's busy... (3, Insightful)

Malor (3658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14032394)

If you have one person to support a hundred people, he's running his ass off, and probably doesn't KNOW what he does in a day. He's probably badly overworked.

Considering that you're being asked to do an RFP, they're probably not happy with the job he's doing... he's probably not wise enough to ask for the help he most likely needs.

Once you get to several employees, you can scale way past 1/100, if they're good. But early on, it doesn't work like that. That first person has to wear so many hats that there isn't much time to streamline and specialize.

If the current employee is competent, you'll almost certainly be better served adding a person than by outsourcing. And expect to add a third person around 200. After that, play it by ear.

Ask Gartner (1)

passthecrackpipe (598773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14033778)

Ask the Gartner Group. They have a (surprisingly, for them) insightful document called "Creating RFP's for fun and profit - Document ID R-950-131 It will only cost you $995 and will teach you *everything* you need to know about creating RFP's and executing on them. On any kind of sizable project the approach they suggest will save you between 20% to 45% in purchasing costs, and it will make sure all relevant stakeholders are included. Personally I believe Gartner are a bunch of wankers, too far stuck up their own arses, but this document is good. Get it.

Why do you need to secure a vendor? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 8 years ago | (#14034070)

Is the current one insecure?

Seriously, why have a vendor at all? Just hire a decent sysadmin and a decent support engineer.

On RFPs, RFIs and whatnot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14034756)

I am a day late on this, and in my many years of reading /. have never bothered to get an account, but since you've only got 9 replies at this point, maybe you'll keep tabs on this article and get something out of my post.

My initial reaction to your situation was that you really just need another body in your shop vs. a complete outsourced helpdesk. But I don't know the details of your environment. 50 of your 100 users could be major revenue generators where desktop downtime costs real money, or maybe the nature of your business involves a lot of complex IT for your size.

I've been on both sides of the RFP game, having written a number of them, as well as preparing proposals for other people's RFPs. Some of your questions indicate that you don't have a lot of experience with these things, so hopefully I can give you a few pointers that you'll find useful.

First of all, you can put anything you want into an RFP. And I mean *anything*. What you are doing is writing up the requirements that you expect vendors to meet, and they will pitch a proposal that covers your requirements. If you want 5 techs on-site at all times, put it in the RFP. Just realize that you pay for what you ask for. (As an aside, one of the RFPs I once put together required that the vendor provide $300k to the customer to spend as they saw fit. So you really can put anything in there).

The important thing to remember is that in addition to the actual RFP document, you need a set of evaluation criteria and probably a ballpark budget. You can ask for whatever you want, but if you end up with 3 bids that are all out of your price range, then you've wasted a lot of time. Some places I've done RFPs for like to just announce the budget, but I've never been much a fan of that approach, at least in an RFP.

A good trick I've used in RFPs is to have optional requirements, or sections with a bare minimum of requirements and then additional features desired. In most bid situations you have a handful of competitors, and they all know each other and their products. By giving them some direction on how to exceed the minimum requirements, you can sometimes get more bang for your buck, as they try to figure out a way to sweeten the deal over their competitor without just slashing the price. The key is to make sure you require what you know you absolutely need, but let the vendors, who are experts in their field, do some of the analysis work for you and pitch you solutions to your problems.

Another thing I'll mention, since it seems like you don't yet have a good idea of what sorts of services you need, is the Request For Information (RFI). Using an RFI, you write up a document that says "here's some background on our company and business, and some of the issues we're trying to overcome" and then solicit vendors to give you a sales pitch on their services that might help you out. This gives you a good idea of what sorts of things are out there, and you can pick and choose the best ideas and put them into your RFP. This can be a little time consuming though, since you end up listening to a lot more presentations than you would in an RFP. (I once sat through 18 RFI presentations for one project).

One last suggestion, more specific to your situation. Since I still think you might be just as well off hiring a helpdesk-level employee or two, you should have an informal "in-house bid" for your RFP. Try to figure out the costs in salary, equipment, benefits, office space, software, etc. to build your own helpdesk. This is a good metric to have in order to set your budget. I did this on a big web project once. The bids that came in from the RFP were close to an order of magnitude above what the customer was looking to pay. In the end, they were willing to accept a slower delivery time and build it all in-house. Things have turned out well for them in that regard.

Hopefully you'll find this post and these tips are of some use.

Ditto, but might help (1)

mckwant (65143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14046686)

There was a study done (Gartner, courtesy of ZDNet Australia [] ) of 200 European companies where they looked at outsourcing contracts. Only 23% of the respondents were NOT expecting to renegotiate. One in eight contracts were renegotiated within the first year.

Your RFP, irrespective of how well thought out it is, will be incomplete at best. It's going to take a significant amount of time to get at and negotiate the whitespace in the contract. Especially in this instance, where you likely won't have a very complete idea of what this guy does.

I'm no fan of Gartner, but the point is that your company is going to have a relationship with the outsourcer, which will need fine tuning throughout the life of the contract(s). It's a (not terribly) hidden cost of the outsourcing paradigm, but people seem to consistently miss it.

More specific (1)

Techmaniac (447838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14035100)

Thanks for the recent posts. I have been ambigious in case the support guy does read /. We actually have less than 50 users to support. It's the same as most other places, in that there are clueless individuals that need fulltime tech handholding while others nary a bit of attention.

Yes, part of the problem is limited experience in writing up an RFP (long time ago in a galaxy far far away...). My thoughts have centered around a full-time hire, but the existing support was an outside contractor who provided the individual onsite.

I think this project is as much about change as it is meeting current and future IT needs.

Duh... (1)

sysadmn (29788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14036223)

I used to write RFP's, both in a Very Large Corporation and the Department of Defense. The magic words are "and other tasks as assigned". Weasel words exist for a reason, put them to work for you!
If the respondent is leery of the (potentially unlimited) amount of work you're asking for, you still have good options. First, include a bound in terms of man hours - "the current workload is approximately 40 man hours per calendar week, and will not exceed 45 man hours per calendar week". Second, include a "time and materials" option - "Additional projects in this area, but outside the scope of this contract, may be assigned on a time and materials basis. Bidder will provide a 'per labor hour' cost for such projects".

[insert org name] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14037030)

As a newly minted employee at [insert org name] I have been tasked with...

I'm gonna go way out on a limb here and say the org is americaspromise.
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