EOI just a process to get “out of book”?
You are wasting your time and the market’s time, if your expression of interest is just an opening gambit.
Government purchasing is very structured. It’s a structure intended to deliver best value. My fear is that people go through the motions of this structured process as simply a form of ritual without achieving what the process was intended to achieve. It’s a little like the standard opening gambits in a chess match.
Classically, there were a number of opening sequences that chess players used to start a game. The intent is to create a setup of the board that advantages a player’s strengths once the ‘real’ game begins. But the common openings have equally well rehearsed defences to negate the advantage sought. So the opening becomes just a process of going through the motions.
With computer software replacing index cards, pretty much every competitive chess match is now recorded. The ‘book’ of recorded openings and defences now runs to well over 5 million records. You would think that eventually whole matches must end up being just repeats of past matches: the whole game would be “from the book”. The extraordinary thing about chess is that even after 5 million recorded matches, completely unique games still emerge after 16-20 moves - the game goes “out of book”. So, contrary to expectations that computerising the book would ruin chess, it just means the opening routines run out after 16-20 moves rather than 2-6.
Radiolab covered the chess ‘book’ in one of their beautifully crafted podcasts explaining why it didn’t kill chess the way it killed international checkers. Yes I kid you not - international checkers! Check it out and be amazed.
Many Councils, and government agencies, approach the process of selecting a corporate software system like a chess match… from the book. They ask for expressions of interest using a set of requirements they borrowed from another Council or that was supplied by their consultant. The vendors have seen the questions before and they paste in the same answers they’ve used before.
Process complete, box checked, opportunity missed!
Everyone has spent time and money and no one learned anything. The Council doesn’t really know much more about any of the market offerings or what makes them different from each other. None of the vendors really knows what Council is trying to achieve and how their system can deliver a solution to the problem.
Everyone who plays chess is now seeking to get to the ‘novelty’; that position which is “out of book”. A position that has never been recorded in over 5 million games. The point where it gets interesting and you can learn something.
The purchasing process should be ‘out of book’. The expressions of interest and all the pre tender discovery, is an opportunity for Council to better understand who the most likely suspects are. It also provides an opportunity for vendors to get a realistic assessment of whether the project and the Council are a good fit for them and whether it is worthwhile investing their time and effort.
An expression of interest should simply and clearly state why Council needs a solution and what you understand of what you need it to do. Vendors responses should simply and clearly state how their product does what is required.
Let’s start the discussion on how your next software evaluation can be out of the book!