Friday, November 09, 2007

Open source business and RFI/RFP's

I have had it. As an Open-Source startup that we still are, I believe we give a lot. Magnolia is one of the top 30 CMS vendors/systems on the planet, as exemplified by the CMS Watch report, the most relevant report of our industry. We give it away for free. We provide free infrastructure to the community. We provide free webcasts. We provide free trial versions of our supported Magnolia Enterprise Edition. You can call us, we provide free feedback on your ideas. We provide a free Evaluation Center and discuss your architecture – for free. We write new modules like the first ever JSR-170 forum (nearly released now) and give it to the community, for free, of course. We even stop by your office and present Magnolia without even getting a glass of water from you. Still free.

Now, there are those companies out there that have marketing budgets of billions. Staff of 100 thousands. IT departments the size of a small village. And someone gets the job to evaluate content management systems. So what do they do? They craft (or download) an RFI – a request for information – they send out to everyone they find in CMS Matrix. Never mind that all of this information can be found in the excellent CMS Watch report, or in the technology evaluation center report (for which I answered more than 3000 questions). No, they want us to answer all of their exact questions (however out-of-this-world and far away from their real needs they may be) in exactly their format within their deadlines – for free.

Well, the buck eventually stops somewhere. Do your own homework, or pay gazillions for the likes of Vignette to provide that service to you. In my world, I have to focus on what is effective for me. And I have decided that RFI's don't work for my company. I'd rather help those that go the extra mile and do their own evaluation.

I don't believe in check lists. I believe in working software. Download Magnolia now. And trash that bullet list.


  1. Maybe you're not effective in communicating your value to your potential customers. I understand your dilemma as I often am the one responding to RFPs for my company, a boutique firm in a crowded sector and have written an article about my luck in RFP resonses. My other advice: try the RFP Database

  2. Thank you David for your comment and the link to the DB (which currently has no RFP's for CMS or ECM). I read your article, good points, but what would interest me is "best practise" how to deliver an RFP (and how to do so efficiently). Anyways, I believe that RFP's are not an efficient sales channel for me.

  3. There are quite a few CMS/ECM projects in our database under the "software" or "web development" categories; a CMS can be anything from a document management system to a health information system to a case management and reporting system. True, the majority aren't your standard CMS for a basic website, but a CMS is a CMS no matter the size or shape.

    RFPs are not for everyone, but if you cut yourself off from them, chances are that you're missing a lot of business opportunities. If word of mouth and printed mailers works for you, good for you!

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  5. Dear Boris,

    Thanks for your post. I stumbled on it myself while looking for databases of RFI's and RFP's. I do basically the same kind of job than you or David, for a software company in the Netherlands. I run in nearly exactly the same issues. Getting the RFI's is already difficult enough (and sometimes you have to pay for them). Paying to get RFI's for software that you are giving away for free is really frustrating. So when you say that you had it, I can feel your pain...

    Anyway, thanks to David for the link So that I bring something useful to this conversation, I personally use Capterra to collect supply chain management and logistics related RFI's. The service is a paying one, but not very expensive (even for a small company like ours) and gives access to free RFI's in the domain you are covering. You have to pay a little bit for the other ones, but it is really not much and worth it, would it be only because it gives access to free information about what people need in the real world...

  6. This is the best thing I've read all year.

    Now, how do we all get the market to understand this...?