June 2, 2011
by David C. Robson, VP of Development
What’s the most important choice a medical device OEM makes once it decides to build a new product? Considering that most OEM’s use third-party resources to augment their staff and help bring new devices to market, I’d say it’s choosing the right development partner. And choosing the right firm starts with establishing a robust and reliable request for proposal (RFP) process.
I’ve been thinking recently about the variety of RFPs we’ve received over the years. Some are great: clear and well defined. Some are vague. Some can be a bit myopic or tunnel-visioned. Others don’t provide enough information about the project to make a valid proposal. When I see RFPs that are not well defined and that are open to wide interpretation and variance, I wonder how the client will compare the resulting proposals on an apples-to-apples basis. What will be their measurement and comparison methods?
This is a traditional problem I’ve heard expressed by the client companies. They aren’t getting back proposals that are comparing apples to apples, or even apples to oranges. Rather, they’re getting proposals comparing apples to cheese – they might both be round, but that’s the only similarity (perhaps a poor analogy, I admit, but you get the idea).
At a minimum, a medical device manufacturer’s RFP needs to provide a development firm with enough information to forecast what work must be done and the types of resources required. In turn, that firm should respond with enough detail for the client’s analysis. Ultimately, the RFP should enable the client company to decide which partner may be the best choice and then to hold that partner accountable for what they quoted. If the development firm can legitimately say, “We didn’t know that was what you wanted,” the client company may have a tough time managing the situation.
Based on years of experience in receiving and responding to RFPs, I have developed some guidelines to help client companies make the most informed choice. I often send this guidance out to potential client companies who have requested a proposal without providing much background. The intent in forwarding this type of document to them is to safeguard both parties from potential misunderstanding and heartache. By creating a solid baseline of context and background between each organization, a more accurate work agreement should result. In turn, the risk of becoming misaligned is reduced — not always eliminated perhaps, but reduced. Starting out with the right information will help client companies choose the best partner to speed products to market that are ultimately safe and successful.