In this post, I’ll tackle some ways to initiate, execute and finalize an evaluation that will allow you to extract the most value from a potential vendor, rather than simply assigning a feature per dollar scoring system.
When looking for a new solution or partner, consider the following:
Value first, without question.
Value and cost are two drastically different things. Seeking the lowest cost provider vs the vendor that’s going to provide you the most value will yield dramatically different results. You need to set a clear map of priorities and align solutions with what you are trying to accomplish.
This will help ensure that your organization maximizes your investment while also making sure that your prospective vendors have a solid understanding of what expectations are in terms of results, not features and functions.
Vendors that race to rattle off their features (while they aren’t always bad fits)—often times can be doing so to skirt around higher value, higher priority components that really matter and deliver true value to you and your team.
Maybe cost is the most important factor to your decision, that’s okay. Just understand what that means in terms of the value you’re getting in return.
Score based on use cases, not features
Features are great and look really nice in a proposal. Vendors love being able to stuff a piece of collateral with a long list of boxes and modules where they can “check the box”. However, think about it—how valuable is a feature to your organization without understanding its intended use?
The best way to evaluate a solution is to think through how your business operates and develop use cases for each area you are looking to improve. Take a deep look at your current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and practices to understand how a new tool is actually going to help you improve or do things more efficiently. This will help you steer away from vendors that are “a mile wide and an inch deep”.
Who are you really buying from?
Do you ever wonder why good investors always say that they don’t invest in products, they invest in people? The reason is pretty straightforward—good companies and good products are built by good people.
You can’t get anywhere if you don’t have a good team rowing the boat in the same direction. You certainly need to ensure that the product is up to snuff and has the needed functions to help you accomplish your goals, however, the company behind the product is just as important to consider.
What is the makeup of the team? Are they all centrally based or is some work outsourced? What does the support team look like? What is the financial health of the company? Most likely, this is going to be a long term relationship and just like a marriage, you want to really get to know someone before signing on the dotted line.
Obtain a second opinion
Again, this is a big investment that will likely span over several years to come. Take the time to do it right. Often times, this means getting other people to weigh in on your decision.
There might be consultants that can help you thin the herd and vet out vendors more efficiently than calling all of them yourself. Definitely ask the vendor for references of current customers—a long term customer, a new customer, and a customer in the same industry as you.
Getting a fresh set of eyes on the project will help you keep things in perspective and make sure you're not getting tunnel vision from exhaustion or over-exposure to the task at hand.
The technology landscape is ever changing and always evolving. Most importantly, take your time to understand what you and your team are looking to accomplish and keep those things “top of mind” throughout the process. Don’t get distracted by ancillary things or flashy gimmicks.
Lastly, keep an open mind and always be open to being surprised. Don’t shut out prospective partners unless you have a really good reason—it’s in your best interest to shop the market and consider all of your options.
What are some of your biggest challenges when finding a software vendor? Tell us in the comments section below!