Fun With RFPs

Help us make a choice we may very well regret for the rest of our careers.

September 25, 2011

Five years ago, my credit union converted  to a new core system. Here’s the request for proposal (RFP) I always wanted to write, but never did.

To whom it may concern:

XYZ Credit Union is currently asking interested vendors to submit RFPs for a new core processing system. Please understand, it’s not that we want to look for a new system or anything.

In fact, according to my CEO, our current system is probably good for another 20 years (because he plans on retiring in 10).

But we’ve found a few minor deficiencies in our core system—most notably that it was last upgraded in 1975, and what little support we get is currently supplied by Spanish monks.

In any event, we’re asking vendors to answer the following questions for our amusement. These questions will help us make a choice we may very well regret for the rest of our careers. But those are the breaks. Please tell us:

  • How many years has your organization supplied core systems? Don’t round to the nearest decade or include years somebody in your organization was thinking about doing this.
  • Would you describe your system as “in-house” or “out house”?
  • Is our existing hardware compatible with your system? OK, stop laughing.
  • Describe how your system meets or exceeds our requirements without using the phrases “best practice,” “leading edge,” or (our particular favorite) “best of breed.”
  • What’s included in your standard package? Is this like buying a new car only to find that the tires, engine, bumpers, headlights, and paint are extras?
  • Please list other local credit unions—similar in size and complexity to ours—that use your product, so we can conduct site visits. When we say “local” we mean it. Please don’t list credit unions in far-off lands such as Lithuania, Bulgaria, or North Dakota. Hawaii is OK; we can live with that one. (Mention Alaska and you might as well tear your RFP into tiny pieces.)
  • How often is the software updated for new enhancements? And do you, like Microsoft, view bug-fixes as “enhancements”?
  • What are your normal hours for support? What’s your guaranteed response time? Do you consider a voice message saying “Leave your problem at the beep” to be your “initial response”?
  • How many hours of training are planned? Please note: We don’t view our employees as “sponges” for information, but rather more like “pumice stones.”
  • Do you have any computer-based training available? Is it cool, like Halo in 3D for Xbox 360?
  • Have you ever converted any financial institution from our current system? If so, would you describe the experience as “straightforward,” “chaotic,” or “absolutely terrifying, like skydiving for the first time and then realizing you left the parachute back in the plane”?
  • What third-party links do you support? How many of these third parties do you blame for all your woes?
  • Do you allow customization? What’s your normal turnaround time for changes? What if we threw in a few extra $20 bills?
  • Besides your salesperson, what do you view as the most annoying aspect of your system?
  • Is your pricing determined by membership base, asset size, or by shaking us until our wallets are empty?

Thank you. Finally, please summarize in one page (or less) why your company is the best match for ours.

Or just take our CEO to lunch. He likes the little place on the water.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.