Q&A: Tower of Babel greets RFP organizers

June 25, 2007

Editor’s note: Over the past year, Ron Schilling has been fielding questions from readers in response to his commentaries on business strategies in medical imaging. We are publishing some of those questions and responses and invite new requests for information.

Editor's note: Over the past year, Ron Schilling has been fielding questions from readers in response to his commentaries on business strategies in medical imaging. We are publishing some of those questions and responses and invite new requests for information. Question: Every vendor submits its materials (from requests for proposals) based on different factors. How can we organize their materials to improve our selection process? Answer: Many large institutions present a standard RFP to vendors, explicitly spelling out how responses are to be organized. This approach often, though not always, prevents problems. An alternative one promises better luck as it helps to guide the entire process, from RFP development to response assessment.This approach relates back to the High 5 concept (DI SCAN, 04/07/06, High 5 highlights importance of understanding the competition), and is used to create a commonlanguage among team members challenged with making a product selection decision. Typically the team settles on four to six factors upon which to base their decision making. The challenge is for all members to agree on what the High 5 should be for a specific situation.When done correctly, the discussion serves to increase understanding as to where each member is coming from. It is important that one person serve as the facilitator.The High 5 can also benefit the vendor community. For vendors with many different products, the sales force may have to use a different approach for each product in the portfolio. This often happens when a product manager uses different language to express the factors important to customers, making a nightmare for the sales force. This can be resolved by bringing product managers together to select a common language, thereby increasing effectiveness throughout the organization.To see how this might be applied by both the equipment vendor and the institution issuing the RFP, I've developed the following High 5 for medical imaging modalities:

  • Technical leadership -- a key specification that demonstrates leadership
  • Image quality -- relating to spatial resolution, contrast resolution, and signal-to-noise
  • Throughput -- the number of patients that can be imaged per day
  • Life-cost -- the number of patients per day required to break even
  • Total service -- reliability, applications, marketing assistance

(Note: Throughput minus life-cost represents the potential for customer profitability. Suppose it takes seven patients per day to break even. If throughput is 25 patients per day, 18 of these can be considered profit.)Product managers can take each of the above High 5 factors and describe how they are put into practice in their own organization compared with the competition, a useful exercise for the sales organization. At the same time, the institution can consistently grade vendors' responses. In this way, both vendors and customers speak the same language of High 5, which allows them to drill down to the detail needed to represent and evaluate each product. Please keep your questions coming to ronald11341@aol.com.Ronald Schilling, Ph.D., is an editorial advisor to Diagnostic Imaging and president of RBS Consulting Group in Los Altos Hills, CA.