Finding the best vendor for your organisation’s needs is not as easy as it seems. They’re all competitively priced, offer great, but different expertise, and seem to offer only the ‘best’. But how do you know which one will deliver over and above what you want?
With the huge ‘slush pile’ of RFPs, RFIs, and tenders on your desk, where to begin? It’s time to take a different approach and get a better result for your business.
First, put them to the test
For your team, keep this task short and well-defined and stick to a tight timeframe. Tell your evaluation team to find the best three vendors from the pile. They can only ask the vendors ten key questions, and they have three weeks to make a decision on a preferred vendor. Then, ask those three vendors to do a demonstration on a small number of critical use cases.
You need to spend time on what these ten questions and the critical use cases are, as they are all you can ask at this point. They need to hit the mark on how their solution will achieve the desired outcomes and drive the value for your needs. Think strategically. Questions could be: “How would you implement a CRM in our organisation?” or “What do you see as the biggest risk to a successful implementation?”
Have an open dialogue with the vendors. This approach helps them get it right and gets your staff engaged in the process early and exposed to the actual solution. Your team needs to select the preferred vendor, so they need to buy into each vendor’s success, but also challenge the vendors to prove they can deliver the solution.
Then pick a preferred vendor and do a three-week Proof of Concept (POC) with them. Again, invest time in what you want proven in the POC, and work collaboratively with the vendor while challenging them.
Sell to the business sponsors
Getting support from the business sponsors on your approach is the single most important step to getting your chosen vendor over the line. This is about explaining the why, how and the what. The successful delivery of this project is an opportunity to move your organisation to industry best practice – and if you aren’t currently best practice, then it means change must occur. Ask for the business sponsors’ proactive support in showing your users there is a bigger picture and a better way, and that will involve change. Your objective is to get them involved before the users inevitably complain the system doesn’t meet their requirements.
Then negotiate a good price
Ask your team what portion of the overall cost of the project is the vendor’s. Flip the idea of ‘driving down costs’ to ‘driving up value’. Instead of asking for 10 per cent cheaper, ask for 15 per cent more, and rather than asking the most expensive services vendor to cut their price, ask why the other vendors are cheaper. Consider here that while you may not need a $2,500-per-day big vendor partner, you may need to invest $2,500 per day for the best Expert in the field.
Is it software or services you need?
Overall, you need to focus on the main issues and shorten the evaluation process timeline. If you’re doing a company-wide ERP implementation, you’re going to need to ask more questions and take more time, and if a smaller, niche project, use a faster process to get you there.
If you are looking for software, pick the two most successful bigger vendors, and one emerging vendor. If you can, go with a cloud solution. This removes complexity and gets you to a better value result much sooner. If you’re tendering out to services, ignore the vendor name and hype and look for the local expertise. Going with safer, bigger brands is not necessarily the safe option.
Running an RFP, RFI, and tender evaluation takes time and effort. It’s a big investment for both you and the vendors, so you need to shift where your time and effort is normally put in. More effort and rigour at the beginning to test the top vendors and get critical buy-in from your business sponsors results in a quicker, more productive evaluation process at the end. Strategise this by:
- From the very start, force yourself to decide what the critical success factors are,
- From those factors, creating your key questions, use cases and the POC criteria, and
- Finally, researching who the best vendors are and quickly move through the evaluation process.
With a direct, strategic and rigorous approach, you can spend less time toiling through your responses to a massive pile of tender documents, and more time getting the best outcome and value for your project and business needs.