Sunday, March 15, 2009
Finding the right software or other technology solutions to meet your needs is critical. There are more and more options available to solve all kinds of business problems arriving on the market every day. So many companies and managers still have an "old school" overly competitive mentality when it comes to dealing with vendors. They tend to use the "I'm the customer" approach to a fault, driving such hard bargains and beating up tech vendors to the point where they are doomed to failure once the contract is signed. Ironically these same folks often abdicate their responsibility to vendors for their own business processes and defining requirements saying things like "you're the experts in XYZ, you tell me how it should work".
As anyone who has seen me in action will tell you, I tend to hold technology vendors to an extremely high standard and can be pretty tough on them, especially when I find instances of a supplier being lax or unprofessional. Fundamentally, however, I take an approach of setting up vendors for long-term successful relationships and am just as hard on company managers who don't take full responsibility for their business processes. After all, it's their choice where to spend money on technology.
Here are my goals for conducting an effective vendor search:
- Find and evaluate as many vendors / solutions / options as possible - quickly and with minimal cost and effort
- Make your search process repeatable to save time (create clear documents so all you have to do is send the same stuff over and over as new vendors are identified)
- Educate vendors (especially your short list) for highly effective demos and proposals
- Enable vendors who are not a strong fit to self-select out early (saving time)
- Set up key vendors for success to build an effective long-term relationship and avoid surprises later
- Demonstrate your company's tech and business savvy throughout to encourage great vendors to want to work with you
- Be a very tough, but very fair customer
As you do your prep work to create a Request for Information (RFI), Proposal (RFP) or Quote (RFQ), keep these goals in mind and test everything you're doing against them. I plan to post more vendor management best practices here on our blog over time. Feel free to contact us for help in building the solid vendor relationships that are so critical to your company's success.