One evening in July 2019, 1am, it's still hot and I'm still working. More than 6 hours I'm struggling to answer a "compliance" questionnaire for a tender. This questionnaire of 130 questions has been keeping me busy for 4 days. I have to send it back tomorrow before 5pm. All the questions are in French, all my documentation is in English. This same documentation is scattered in an impressive number of OneDrive folders. Each Excel document is 5 to 10 sheets long. Each Word document is at least 20 pages long. I use the "search" function of Office, but I spend a lot of time on each question.
At this point, I ask myself:
- Will anyone on this earth read my answers? I can't imagine anyone spending more than 5 minutes on it.
- Does having to "crunch the numbers" necessarily mean that one has to go through such unrewarding tasks? The answer is obviously no.
- Shouldn't I go to sleep? The answer is obviously yes.
The next day, I talk about this night from hell to a colleague. He answers me:
- I understand what you went through. I answered a questionnaire like that last year, I'll send it to you if you want.
Great, maybe some of the questions are similar, I can compare! And then, astonishment, his questionnaire was word for word identical to mine. I had a terrible feeling when I discovered that my colleague had not bothered to answer all the questions. When I made the remark, he said to me:
- Don't worry, nobody reads this.
During the same month, I answered 2 other calls for tenders. The needs are similar, we don't sell 50 products. The requests of the specifications are formulated a little differently. So, it requires the constitution of two teams with hours of work and multiple meetings to give, on both sides, a complete answer. I force myself to think that this is normal. After all, we tailor our services to each client.
Nevertheless, the number of "administrative questions" constituted 20 to 30% of each document. The meetings bring up the same topics, the answers to both pre-sales are very similar and yet we rewrite everything each time.
Finally, in the space of a few days, for one of the two invitations to tender, we received a 2nd and then a 3rd version of a specification that kept changing. At that point, I asked my prospect:
- Will the details of each of our RFI responses influence your choice?
- No. We just analyze your standard feature set and budget. That's enough at this point.
- But you know, we started with a standard set of specifications that we will adapt as the project progresses.
That's exactly when I made the decision to launch Thinkeo. I understood that despite the need to frame and ensure a certain transparency via the call for tenders, we could avoid the complexity and repetitiveness of the tasks that made it up. Saving time to better understand the client's needs, spending more time with him and actually making a custom project seemed to me to be viable and coherent.
That same evening, I attended an outdoor screening of Blade Runner 2049 at the Parc de la Villette. It was on a beach towel in this park that I said for the first time:
- I think there's something to do.
The adventure was launched.