7 Rules to write an effective RFP for selecting the right WEM Vendor

By Neha Aggarwal posted 12-20-2011 07:43


Investing in a web project is an investment into the future. Therefore, it’s important that the solution you choose serves you not only today, but over the long term as well. Organizations are losing billions of dollars each year because they select the wrong hardware, middleware, and software product, which is due to inadequate vendor information and evaluation processes.

The key behind a successful selection of suitable solution or product is a sound evaluation criteria usually carried out by process of a Request for Proposal (RFP). RFP is often the first connect of any organization with the vendors or service integrators. It is this document, which positions your organization’s representation on a whole to the vendors, tells them what they need to know in order to propose the right solution, and specifies your expectations from the desired state.

Now when it comes to writing a RFP for a Web Experience Management (WXM) solution, the job gets even tougher. Creating a RFP for a WXM system involves a thorough understanding of the various aspects of the technology, scope of the project under consideration and understanding of the predominant needs in this area.

Here are my 7 Rules to write an effective RFP for selecting the right WXM vendor -

1.Clearly specify the scope of the project under consideration with key requirements and pain points

The first and foremost step is to have a clear understanding of the scope of the WXM project under consideration. WXM has 2 facets – the external facing customer oriented websites/portals or the internal facing enterprise web portals. Once this first boundary is established, it is important to interview business users for understanding the key pain points and requirements. Requirements in WXM may vary from very basic automation of web publishing process to having web analytics and multi-channel or cross-channel strategy in place. The scope should clearly cover the business problem we’re solving, how many, what type, how long, and what we strategically want from the system.

2.List the right set of requirements with a requirement-feature mapping matrix

Requirements are the heart of any RFP. In order to write an effective WXM RFP, it is very important to do some homework and list requirement buckets with key points in each bucket. Not only is it important to give an overview of your requirements in the RFP, it is equally important to state the requirement details (preferably in a tabular format) soliciting responses from vendors in form of a requirement-product feature mapping to understand the capability of the product. A best practice in this scenario is also to develop a structure for the vendor responses. A tabular matrix not only helps the vendors in furnishing accurate responses, but also helps the RFP evaluation team to carry out a fair comparison of various vendor’s responses on defined parameters and make the job less tedious.

Also, this requirement Matrix should not only focus on product features but also various other factors such as –

  • Product Roadmap
  • Global Presence
  • System Integrators
  • Product Architecture

Even for these generic questions, one may specify the format of response to escape from the trap of evaluating tons and tons of text and supporting documents the vendors may provide as a response.




Response Format

Vendor Response

Customer Advisory Board

Do you have any of your customers on your advisory board? If yes, please list.

Names of customers


Product Architecture

Please give details on your Product Architecture in terms of its compliance with J2EE, Dot Net , hybrid or proprietary.

Text/ Images of architecture


System Integrators

Please list your License partners and re-sellers in North America.

Text/ Logos



To get specific responses, we need to be very specific in our questions! Else, RFP evaluation can take months and end up in study of piles and piles of brochures that we get as a response to a one liner question.

3.Tell Vendors How They Must Write Their Proposals. Include a Proposal response structure

When it comes to proposals, they can be as different as chalk and cheese. To be able to compare apples to apples, it is important to set a structure to govern the proposal formats. The best way here is to define the proposal response structure. A sample response structure is as given below:

  1. Executive summary
  2. Response form
  3. Supplier credentials
  4. Understanding of the WXM project
  5. Solution details
  6. Compliance to RFP terms and conditions
  7. Pricing and licensing
  8. References
  9. Appendices

Using this best practice can reduce the RFP evaluation time by at-least 2 days plus the cumbersome process of studying various formats and extracting useful information.

4.Give a reasonable timeline for vendors to respond

WXM RFPs can be very demanding. They expect the vendors to list down an exact solution to meet the customer’s requirements with the approach, timelines, resource plan etc. Putting all of this together in a short span of time is usually of one the greatest causes of deals gone awry or for wrong solution/implementation recommendations. Therefore, to ensure getting an accurate vendor response, include at-least 2 to 3 weeks of response time indicating dates for the sequence of events.  An extra week’s time here can go a long way in saving months and years of pain in dealing with wrong solution, vendor or implementations.  

5.Always include Product Demonstrations in your RFP Schedule and Timeline

See it to believe it. No matter how fancy a vendor response may look, it is very important to examine the product usability and experience to ensure it meets your requirements, especially in case of WXM products since they are to be used by marketing teams for creating websites which is a critical function in itself. I remember working with a customer, an insurance company, who completely changes their product selection priority after seeing the product demo on mobile module and visual workflows. It is a good idea to include your core stakeholders in these demonstration sessions and to take their views for coming at a final score for the product evaluation. This may also prove to be your first step in enabling the change that your organization is going to experience with the new system. Including use cases to be run by the business users during the demo may be a good idea to get objective scores from all participants.  

6.Multi-Channel is Inevitable

With mobile internet predicted to take over desktop internet usage by 2014, any WXM strategy which does not take mobile into account is incomplete. Apart from dotting all I’s and crossing all T’s in the RFP, it is also of utmost importance to define the critical must haves in the solution, product and the vendor. Customers often move across channels during their buying journey and it is very important to consider the capability of product to support mobile and other channels to ensure long term sustainability of the solution. Mobile is not an additional feature; it’s a must in WXM strategy.

7.Ask for any additional capabilities

Though it is good to define and guide the response structure of the proposals, it is also important to practice some flexibility and give the vendors a chance to share any additional capabilities they or their products have which are not explicitly mentioned in the requirements. This may prove to be the missing dot for a vendor who may mention something that covers a future requirement, a requirement we have not previously thought of, or some other factor that may help making the final decision!