RFI as rich asset

  • 17-Nov-2009

I was talking with one of our Web CMS Report subscribers today, someone who is leading a state government's effort to modernize its WCM system. The question arose as to how to keep vendors from giving softball answers to hardball questions when submitting a Request for Information. I proposed a simple expedient: Require screenshots.

If a product supports a certain type of functionality via a graphical user interface, the vendor should have no qualms about showing the UI in question, doing the operation in question. It's one thing to be told "Yes, our admin interface supports restricting a user's right to Copy or Move a file" (for example), but a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand workarounds.

What about when the vendor comes back with "This functionality is easily implemented via changes to a configuration file" (or via an API call)? Very well: In that case, let's see the relevant XML fragment (or code snippet) with the changes highlighted. Demand to see the relevant lines of code. Is that so much to ask?

Hey, the worst that could happen is that the vendor will skip past a few of your harder questions -- or complain that your RFI process is just too burdensome. In which case, you've already learned a great deal indeed.