By R. Christopher Haines, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer

“Can you fill out this RFP to help me send out an RFP? I want to see if you’re qualified enough to write 500 questions that will help us pick a new policy admin system.”

To borrow my wife’s favorite response — seriously?

It’s time to kill the request for proposal (RFP), the request for quote (RFQ), the request for information (RFI), and all their other ugly stepsisters. I won’t say doing your research isn’t important. Making an uneducated guess would be foolhardy. But does the knowledge you need really come from 50 pages of questions that only omit the favorite Saturday morning cartoon of the programmers who wrote the system?

In my previous life with an insurance carrier, I was lucky enough to go through a core system replacement from start to finish. In the beginning, we thought we needed to get some outside help with vendor and system selection. The consulting group we hired convinced us our only way of finding the right system was to send out a massive RFP to about 30 vendors. As you’d expect, we didn’t get 30 responses. But we did get quite a few, with a ton of data to consume and process (and much money made by the consultants).

Anyone care to guess which system we chose after all of this? The one with the people we liked the best, with whom we had the best connection, with the people we could see going into battle with, the ones who wouldn’t let us down. We actually bought a new version/total rewrite of their system — which hadn’t even been built yet — almost solely on our confidence in these people. It turned out to be one of the most successful system-replacement projects there could be. There were highs and there were lows, but those people never let us down.

At a time in which three out of four insurance system projects are failing or floundering, what’s wrong with a personal approach? It couldn’t be any worse than RFP Roulette. Maybe it’s time to pay less attention to the answers to 500 questions and more to the people running software companies and their ability to deliver on their promises.

At the very least, we should give more weight to references and less to RFPs. Spending more time investigating vendors and seeing their systems and people in action will be more fruitful than wasting time wading through 500 questions.