In this post, you will gain invaluable guidance on how to choose a vendor for your new software implementation. Choosing the vendor that implements your software may seem like an easy choice, but this is a vitally important selection. I attach credibility to the adage “You’re better off with the wrong software and the right vendor than the reverse”.
The Due Diligence
Many companies choose a vendor almost by default. A typical search for the right solution might start by choosing a few different software programs to review and then invite vendors in to perform a demonstration. (Please see last week’s post on why you shouldn’t begin software demonstrations until you have performed the important step of Creating a Requirements Document) Often, the best demonstration wins the day, and the vendor who performed that demonstration is awarded the project. However, vendor selection is of, at a minimum, equal importance to the software selection. Below, I have provided a few considerations as you evaluate prospective vendors. The considerations can be assigned a priority, depending on what is most important to your company.
Does the company have extensive experience in your industry? My CEO likes to say “if you show up at the bakery, you better have flour on your shoes”. Companies tend to have strengths in specific areas. The company that is all things to all people is not necessarily a good thing. A company ought to be able to provide an abundant list of customers in your marketplace.
Does this always mean that if you run a HVAC, Plumbing and Electrical field service organization, your chosen vendor should a lengthy list of HVAC clients? - Maybe, maybe not. You can decide, after meeting with the vendor, your level of comfort but suffice to say, they should have extensive field service market experience.
The reason that vendor’s experience in your market is so important is their ability to precipitate conversations that your team might not initiate. An intimate knowledge of your industry is necessary to drive requirements discussions, some of which can be very complex.
A simple example: a recent Sentrien client performed apartment cleaning services to prepare a vacated apartment for the new renter. They performed three separate cleaning services on three consecutive days – paint, clean and carpet. Understanding this requirement allowed us to engage them in a discussion to determine whether or not they required all jobs to move in unison if the first job was delayed a day. The answer was yes, this is a desirable and welcome efficiency for their office staff.
Does your vendor require a Business Requirements Document? I will refer you to last week’s post, How to Create a Business Requirements Document, but this should be mandatory. You should not have to be the one who initiates this conversation. If your vendor is willing to go forward without a written summation of your requirements, this should be a red flag. A Requirements Document is your “go to” document to ensure that your needs are both understood and met.
Can your vendor share their process with you? Your vendor should have a written process that they utilize to take their clients through the stages of reviewing and evaluating their proposed solution. This should start from the handshake and go through the steps to contract signature to include:
- Requirements Gathering
- Need for a Second Demonstration?
- Identifying Team Members
- Approximate Costs as they Solidify into Final Proposal
I don’t suggest that the process is always this regimented or that there aren’t revisions or wholesale changes depending on circumstances, but a vendor should be able to share the process map that they use. Although some smaller companies (possibly yours) feel that they don’t need all these steps to make simple software purchases, I strongly recommend that you adopt some of the concepts articulated in this post. Embrace process over speed, document your requirements and research your vendor.
Red Flag: Are They in a Hurry to Sign an Engagement?
I am borrowing an excerpt from an earlier post in this series, How to Calculate Total Cost of Ownership:
The vendors you choose to compete for your business have a decision to make. How much free time do they “donate” to this opportunity before the transition to a paid engagement? A thorough discovery done by the vendor (the expert) should allow them to provide you with an accurate proposal. On the other hand, a quick proposal and/or one done by inexperienced personnel without proper process and/or one done with their eye on the clock is liable to end up in project-killing “Scope Creep”.
You should understand how your vendor assigns their project teams, specifically the team assigned to your implementation. At Sentrien, we assign a team to handle your implementation and that team stays in place, within their business process area, for the entirety of the project. Our same team members work with our client throughout the Configuration, Walkthroughs, User Acceptance Testing and Training. This continuity, I strongly feel, is the optimal way to a successful implantation, both for us and our client. Some vendors may assign several members to, for instance, the accounting business process area resulting in this example - Your controller and A/R people might be on a call with one vendor team member on Monday and a second on Wednesday. Even though the vendor’s team members will brief each other, your team must repeat information (possibly complex information) and continuity will be lost.
The multi-assignment approach may work well for the vendor, who can shuffle more experienced personnel to a project in need, but this approach jeopardizes the cohesion built between two teams. Seek the optimal environment for your team.
Find out the specific vendor team members that will be assigned to your project. Check the LinkedIn profiles of these people, once they are identified, who are assigned to your project. For example, a person responsible for implementing your accounting module/application should reflect the necessary experience in their LinkedIn profile. If not available thru LinkedIn, ask the vendor for their qualifications or resume. Our government bids require us to attach the resumes of all team members to our bid submission. Although your vendor’s new consultants must gain experience somehow, it is incumbent on you to secure the best team of professionals from your vendor to work with your team. Be wary of getting the C team.
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Who will be providing support? Does the vendor use inexperienced help desk people? Is it possible that it may take some time before your issue can be escalated to an experienced support resource? Is the support only by email or is phone support included? Is there a support portal where you can log support issues so that they may be tracked?
A wealth of information can be gleaned from the vendor’s website. Do they display experience in your market or is there no or only cursory mention of field service? Do they have any current blogs or current information? Do they only carry one product or can they offer different solutions to fit different customer requirements?
The time that you take to perform due diligence on your vendor may make the difference between a strong Return on Investment and a poor one. It will also strengthen the odds that you won’t have to go through this process before it is absolutely necessary.
If you have any questions about the information presented here,
please feel free to call Greg Nelson at:
(571) 384-5380 x103