Floyd and Boyd are not real people. But they play them on TV. They recently engaged in this discussion during an episode of Unreal People on UPC (the Unreal People Channel).

Floyd: Why don’t companies market to vendors?

Boyd: What?

Floyd: If companies need the products and services vendors are selling — particularly operations-related IT vendors — why don’t they market to the vendors?

Boyd: You mean like outbound communication?

Floyd: Uh huh.

Boyd: I’m not sure I follow. It kind of sounds like reverse marketing.

Floyd: I guess it is. Look. Companies are inundated with all manner of marketing and sales pitches from innumerable vendors, few of whom understand the peculiarities of any individual company’s operational environment or its needs, right?

Boyd: I don’t know. I’m not a real person.

Floyd: Trust me. That’s what happens. Then, when companies actually need to buy products or services, they typically adopt one or more of three tactical approaches: They throw staff at it. They throw money at it. And/or, they throw technical minutiae at it.

Boyd: How do they throw staff at it?

Floyd: They form search committees and make it a prioritized objective to find the perfect thing. They don’t weigh the cost of taking otherwise productive people offline to search for the Holy Grail. Nor do they determine if the searchers are qualified to know the Grail if they find it.

Boyd: If that’s as expensive as it sounds, how else do they throw money at it?

Floyd: They hire a consultant to find the perfect system. What they don’t know is that there is no perfect system. But if their needs are assessed appropriately, if their requirements are gathered comprehensively, and if their processes are engineered optimally, there is a perfect system for them.

Boyd: Wow. How could they possibly make that more costly or complicated?

Floyd: They send out an RFP.

Boyd: Is that bad?

Floyd: It doesn’t need to be. But it typically doesn’t narrow the field or cut the cost very much.

Boyd: Why not?

Floyd: Because most RFPs are reactive. They’re likely determined and or informed by the insurer’s last related disaster, but the folks who participate don’t have access to the history of the last disaster. So, they’re ill-equipped to prevent its second coming.

Boyd: Ouch.

Floyd: And if you’ve ever read an RFP, you know it typically constitutes a senior management wish-list, for which there are no strategic objectives and few defined requirements.

Boyd: Ready, fire, aim.

Floyd: Exactly.

Boyd: What’s to be done?

Floyd: Companies could publish details about their technical environments on websites or via outbound communications to select vendors.

Boyd: Give me a f’rinstance.

Floyd: Okay. Insurers, for example, could fire preemptively by determining and communicating their technical requirements: their development environments, their architectures, their technology platforms, and their interfaces and integrations.

Boyd: Even I can follow that.

Floyd: They also can communicate their general functional requirements. If their need is a policy system, they can communicate requirements for things like rating and quoting; new business submissions; underwriting, workflow; policy issuance, changes, cancellations, and reinstatements; endorsements; and renewals and non-renewals.

Boyd: Wouldn’t that make it clear that some vendors just won’t qualify?

Floyd: By Jove, I think you’ve got it! Insurers could even refine their messages to define more detailed needs like functional requirements for commercial and/or personal lines, lines of business and coverages, premium audit, producer interfaces, billing, customer information and reporting, maintenance, and more.

Boyd: That sounds like common sense.

Floyd: Shhh! You could get fired for saying things like that.

Boyd: But we’re not real people.

Floyd: Oh. Right.

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