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The Data Warehouse RFP


Jill Dych is partner and cofounder of Baseline Consulting and an internationally recognized author, speaker, and

business consultant. Jill advises companies across markets and industries on the strategic use of information, and

has helped companies like Verizon, American Express, Charles Schwab, and The Gap deploy information to enable

fact-based decision-making. Jill is the author of the acclaimed book, e-Data, which introduced executives to

enterprise data and was published in six languages. Her latest book, The CRM Handbook, is now on its eleventh


Copyright 2000 - 2005, Baseline Consulting Group Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Data Warehouse RFP
If you dont yet have a data warehouse, youre probably considering drafting an RFP to obtain an idea of the prices and
features of various hardware and software products. If you already have a data warehouse, youve probably deployed at
least a few RFPs already, and may continue to do so as you supplement your business capabilities.

Regardless of where you are, understanding how to submit an RFP will not only guide your vendors in delivering
optimal responses, but will save you a lot of work in evaluating the resulting proposals. An RFP is often the only written
communication a candidate vendor will receive from your company. If done right, it will make you look good. If done
badly, well


Many companies in search of technology solutions have tried the throw it at the wall and see what sticks method of RFP
creation. This means vaguely outlining what the company is thinking of doing, distributing the RFP to a hundred or so
vendors, and wading through all the responses to see which ones cheapest.

If price is your only evaluation metric, then fine, choose a vendor based on the lowest price. This makes the RFP
creation a lot easier. But, since youll be drafting a second RFP for the next vendor to clean up the resulting mess, Id
recommend drafting a structured and well thought-out RFP the first time around, and evaluating responses based on a
number of different metrics, including price.

The list below details the components of an effective RFP.

Company Overview

This section should describe your company, its industry, its history, its revenues, and include a discussion of its market
share. Historical information such as recent mergers and acquisitions and changes in executive staff should also be
included at a high level.

Problem Description

The RFP should explain the companys original business drivers, and include all necessary background information,
including details about failed projects or false starts. The problem overview should give respondents a general idea of the
need, pain, or problem, that the RFP Response should address.

Solution Guidelines and Objectives

This part of the RFP should outline a set of questions or issues for the vendor to address. If the proposal is for technology,
list detailed questions about functions and features are appropriate here. If you are requesting a consulting proposal, ask
for details about job roles, methodologies adopted, and software tools used.

The RFP should present a pro-forma implementation solution description in order to aid respondents in crafting the 3
>> The Data Warehouse RFP

right approach or proposing the optimal technology products. For example, if the proposal involves building a new front-
end application for an existing data warehouse, you might see your project occurring in three stages:

Phase I: Business Analysis

Phase II: Prototyping and User Acceptance
Phase III: Implementation

Ask the vendor to describe a concise solution for each of the phases, including product, consulting and approach. Be
sure and specify the objectives of each phase, as well as the ideal end-result, as in:

At the end of Phase II, the Bank expects to have a functional prototype for Financial Reporting,
including at least 13 canned reports and a range of ad-hoc capabilities that match the requirements
outlined in Phase I of the project.

If the proposal involves technology products, be sure and specify the exact type of technology you would like the
vendor to bid. Asking the vendor to describe and price a from-scratch solution without describing the existing technology
infrastructure or intended product purchases can foment misunderstandings and confusion, resulting in dissimilar
responses. Better to specify the components youre interested in (hardware platform, operating system, database
software, and industry-specific data model) and how you expect them to fit together with what youve already got.

To maintain objectivity and ensure completeness, many companies retain a third-party vendorwho is not involved in
the biddingto help produce this section of the RFP, as well as to help judge the resulting responses.

Evaluation Metrics

Professionalism and fair play dictate that evaluation metrics are standardized for all potential respondents. This not only
levels the playing field, rendering each vendor equal in a full and unbiased consideration, but also mitigates the likelihood
unpleasant accusations from the losing vendors once youve made your selection. (Hey! Vendor B was chosen because
their salesman plays golf with the Head Actuarials brother!)

Evaluation metrics force responding vendors to go on record with their strengths and weaknesses, and provide a
glimpse of what you are looking for. Ability of vendor to provide senior level expertise in implementing our ROLAP
application, is a sample evaluation metric. Another is, Vendors list of customer references in the insurance industry.

Staff Expertise

If the RFP requests consulting or implementation expertise, detail the desired skill sets. Be specific about individual
project roles. Consultants should all have at least 5 years experience, 3 of which involved relational database
implementation, could apply just as well to a programmer as to a business analyst. This is where an open-ended
question is okay, as in, Describe the skill sets of the particular consultants slated to deliver application development and
what makes them uniquely qualified. The answer will tell you a lot about the consulting firms ability to deliver.


Its up to you to define how you would like the vendor to price its proposal. While an interesting exercise in gauging various
approaches, leaving it up to the vendor to decide between fixed-price and time and materials isnt worth much if your
company insists on one or the other.
Remember to request price breakdowns, particularly when the RFP solicits prices for both product and consulting.

Projected Timeline

The RFP should include a high-level timeline that includes:

How long proposal evaluation will take

The date a decision will be announced

The projected project start date

The expected project end date

If vendors are expected to deliver an in-person presentation as follow-up to their RFPs, specify the window of time
reserved for oral presentations. Be sure and elucidate that presentations will be scheduled two-to-three weeks in advance,
and vendors will be contacted accordingly. This will save you from the rash of telephone queries from eager vendors
preparing their pitches.


You probably already have these in some standard corporate contracts. The terms protect you in the event that the project
is canceled, or if none of the proposals submitted is accepted. Terms might also stipulate that proposals become your
confidential property, or that the RFP process doesnt bind you into accepting the lowest-priced proposal. See your
companys legal staff for exact wording.

Proposal Response Guidelines

Before distributing an RFP, you should understand the mechanics of proposal review. Will you be assembling a proposal
review team, or is management deciding? Will there be a meeting in which everyone will vote, or an informal e-mail
consensus? Knowing the answers up-front will give you a good idea of:

Proposal structure and formatting guidelines so that evaluators arent comparing apples to oranges when evaluating

Proposal delivery address. (Include the name and suite number of an actual staff member so respondents arent left
wondering if the proposal left in the lobby ever made it upstairs)

How many response copies should be submitted

Proposal delivery deadline. (Include not only a date but a time, so that youre not awaiting laggard proposals at 11:45

Vendors will inevitably have questions about the RFP and its contents. While many companies hold general meetings
in which vendors can ask their questions in an open forum, thereby permitting all bidders to hear questions and
responses, vendors are often reluctant to query the RFP in front of their rivals for fear of betraying their strategies.
Thus questions remain unanswered, possibly affecting the resulting proposal. Better to establish a process and
>> The Data Warehouse RFP

deadline for submitting questions anonymously and in writing, and explain the procedure somewhere in the RFP


To tie these various components together, here is a sample RFP Table of Contents from a financial services firm interested
in developing a dependent data mart. Notice the relative length of each section:

BestBank Data Mart

Request for Proposal

Section Page
i. Introduction i.
I. Company Background 1.
a. Executive Staff
b. A technology company in the banking business
c. Where Were Headed
II. Statement of Need 2.
a. Business drivers for dependent data mart approach
b. End user and requirements
III. Solution Description and Components 5.
a. Proposed functionality: data mart
b. Proposed functionality: analysis tools
IV. Response Guidelines 11.
V. Vendor Qualification 13.
a. Technology criteria
b. Consultant criteria
c. Description of implementation approach
d. Description of vendor company
e. Resume guidelines
f. References
VI. Pricing and Terms 22.
VII. Delivery Criteria and Question Clarifications 23.
Appendix A: Existing Technology Infrastructure A-1
a. Network Topology Map and Intranet
b. Data warehouse database design (physical tables)

Table 1: Sample RFP Table of Contents

The best and most effective RFPs are those that nimbly balance corporate strategy and technical ideas, traversing the
fine line between confidentiality and disclosure while leaving vendors plenty of room to showcase the best products and
6 services they have to offer.
Solve your business analytics, data integration,
and data warehousing problems
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