Setting the Scene


Dear John,

Over the last 6 months, we have spent a lot of time and effort talking to staff throughout our organization, both in this country and globally, to identify the way in which our current search engine is meeting their requirements. The objective of the research project was to develop a set of requirements for a new enterprise search engine, but one of the discoveries we made was that many of these requirements could be met by enhancing our current search engine. However, we felt that there was some benefit to be gained by looking at other search engines, and that is why we are now inviting you to submit a proposal to us.

We thought it might be useful to set out some of the core requirements in this cover letter so that you are absolutely clear about the approach we are taking. We suspect that you are already surprised by the fact that the Request for Proposal (RFP) is such a slim document. This is because we have set out our requirements in terms of what we want the new search application to do for our organization and do not require a table of the features that you offer. You will see that we have developed four use cases for search, and should you win through to the evaluation stage, staff representing these use cases will be present at the meeting.

We will not be impressed by your installed user base. We have read the relevant Real Story Group report on your software, and on the software of other companies to which we have sent this RFP. We have also spoken not only to organizations that use your software, but also to those that opted for different solutions. We have taken advantage of the many informal networks that enabled us to find out how well your software performed once your staff completed the initial install and left the building.

We will, however, be impressed by the number of new customers you have signed up over the last year who will be using the same version of the software you are proposing to us. We are sure that they will be very pleased with the impact on their operations, and that you will be anxious for us to call them and be reassured of how well you support their search team. We note that your company, like most of your competitors, does not have a User Group. You will see that one of our core requirements is that you enable us to create a community with those of your customers who have the same business requirements and challenges as we do, where we can exchange ideas and suggestions on how to get the best from your software.

Through our networks we have a reasonable idea of how much we are going to pay for a license for your software. Of course we are able to depreciate the cost of the software over a number of years, but we cannot do the same with the salaries of the search team. One outcome of the initial research we undertook was that we underestimated how many people would need to be involved in supporting the search engine. In our RFP, we set out the way in which the current team of two works to support some 57,000 users around the world. We expect you to outline the skills of the team that would be needed and to provide us with an indication of the size of that team at the time of implementation and in a year's time. Given how many installations you have completed, we are sure that this information is readily available.

We are aware of some of the generic challenges we face in implementing a new search application, but at a detailed level we do not have the degree of experience that you have in coping with performance problems, implementing secure search, and installing a desktop client in some of our smaller offices around the world. Please complete the Risk Management section and outline the risks that you feel we face with the implementation and how we can work with you to mitigate these risks.

We know that you are very busy at the present time, and we do not want to add significantly to your work load. It would therefore be in our mutual interests if you could respond to our invitation in no more than the 20 pages it took to set out our requirements.

We hope that this cover letter has been a useful introduction to these requirements, and we look forward to reading your response in the very near future.