Automate Data Entry from Logistics Documents, an RFP Guide
Like many freight forwarders, you’ll know when you need a document automation solution to reduce time and costs and increase accuracy and productivity.
And so, the time has come to start vetting a solution. To help, we’ve developed a sample document automation RFP as a checklist for freight forwarders when choosing a solution to help replace manual data entry with automated data extraction for key logistics documents.
What Is a Request for Proposal?
An RFP is a formal request you send to potential solution providers asking them to submit a proposal demonstrating how their product or service can address your business’ needs and solve its problems. Once you’ve received your responses, you can then compare suppliers and will have a much better understanding of what your choices are.
RFPs have played a crucial role in business for decades. They allow buyers to compare features, functionality and price across various vendors, and allow the vendors themselves to demonstrate their solutions’ unique benefits.Importantly, RFPs should set out all the requirements for a particular project.
Why Do You Need a Solid RFP?
A thorough RFP process will help you to decide whether a logistics document automation solution meets your requirements and will minimise your chances of getting half way through your project before realising you’re missing a key ingredient.
Asking the right questions through the RFP process will help you to understand more about the capabilities a document automation solution provider has to offer, and whether their product will be able to help you meet your short- and long-term business goals.
What Does an RFP Process Look Like?
There are four key stages to the RFP process:
- Draft and Issue
- Score and Shortlist
- Select Winner and Contract
- Assemble RFP team
- Establish business goals and budget
- Decide evaluation categories and identify “deal breakers”
Draft and Issue
- Draft RFP
- Review and customize
- Finalize and distribute
Score and Shortlist
- Develop evaluation metrics
- Evaluate and score received proposals
- Shortlist vendors with highest scores
Select Winner and Contract
- Negotiate terms with leading contenders
- Select a winner and finalize agreement
- The vendor relationship begins
This stage is all about discovering precisely what your organisation needs from a document automation solution. Who will need to sign off on the technology? Who will need to technically implement and which managers will get their teams on board? Identify these people and involve them with the RFP process right from the start.
Next, you should schedule an internal team meeting to discuss your business goals and establish a budget for the solution. Decide how you will score the different vendors, what evaluation categories to include and whether there are any crucial “deal breakers” to look out for.
If you need help with this discovery phase, our product specialists are on hand to talk about your business & help you flesh out your requirements.
Draft and Issue
Drafting an RFP can be a lengthy process. It involves multiple stakeholders and requires careful planning and attention to detail. The questions you ask on your RFP are crucial for unearthing the true advantages and disadvantages of each solution in relation to your business needs, so it’s important to pay them due attention.
For evaluating document automation solution providers, we recommend your questions cover the following eight categories:
- Organisation – background and experience working with logistics companies
- Technology – core technology details and key differentiators
- Compatibility – APIs and integration capabilities with email platforms and ERP platforms such as CargoWise
- Accuracy – the scope and level of accuracy that can be guaranteed when processing logistics documents
- Exceptions – how document exceptions are managed using the specialist technology
- Setup – how long it will take to implement the solution and onboard users
- Support – details of post roll-out support plan and ongoing customer support
- Pricing – details of pricing structure, implementation fees and any other additional fees you are likely to incur
Drafting a comprehensive RFP that covers all bases can be complex and time-consuming and may require several reviews and revisions. To help you speed things up, we’ve created a document automation RFP template that you can download for free to use during your procurement process.
Score and Shortlist
When your proposals arrive, now is the point where you evaluate and score supplier responses. If any vendors do not meet the “deal breaker” criteria you initially set out, these can be eliminated immediately. For the remaining companies, the task is to identify differentiators and key strengths between and across vendors. Create a shortlist of those with the highest scores who meet your most critical criteria.
Select a Winner and Contract
Now is the point where you should talk to the vendors on your shortlist in-person – or via a videoconferencing call – to get a better feel for each provider and to ask any further questions relating to their solution or their RFP responses. This is also the moment where you negotiate with leading contenders – on price, as well as deliverables and timelines – until you have locked in a contract with your supplier of choice.
Distributing your RFP to Document Automation Companies
With a growing demand for document automation solutions, there are several industry agnostic tools on the market that can be setup and programmed to extract data from business documents and invoices. Some of these are pure OCR, which require template set up, others are smarter and can cover some variation in formats. For simple details like invoice totals, PO numbers and bank account numbers, generalist tools are a perfectly adequate solution for your average company.
We recently drafted an article on generalist vs specialist document automation solutions and what to consider as a freight forwarder.
Download Your Free Document Automation RFP Template
A comprehensive RFP that clearly spells out your business’ requirements from a document automation solution provider is crucial for identifying the best vendors on the market.
To save you the work, we’ve created an RFP template covering the eight essential selection categories with multiple questions to ask potential vendors.