4 Keys to Running a Successful Vendor Selection

by

When I first started consulting, my very first project was a vendor selection, and I’ll be honest, my first thought was: “What is a vendor selection?” Since then I’ve been a part of many vendor selections and learned a lot of lessons along the way. If you’re thinking of undertaking a vendor selection, if you’re going to be a part of a vendor selection committee, or even if you’ve done several before, there are a few things to consider:

Know the Problem

Before you even start thinking about vendors, you should start thinking about yourself. Make a list of the problems you are trying to solve, think about why you are trying to solve them, determine the goals you are trying to achieve, and figure out which features are most important in helping you achieve them. Every vendor is going to say they can solve your problems one way or another, so the better you understand what you are looking for the easier you can navigate the selection process. Having a clear understanding of your needs will ensure that you can drive the conversation (and the price) more effectively. The matrix below is a matrix that we built  to help our clients organize their thoughts and prioritize their feature lists (note this matrix is for a financial ERP system). Creating something similar for yourself will help you get a clear picture of what you need, as well as help you communicate that need to others.

Preliminary Research

Don’t pick a vendor just because they are a name brand. In most cases, clients want to go with the big names because of their brand. But before starting a vendor selection project you should really sit down and do some research. The first place I usually start is Gartner. Each year, they produce reports on varying types of software across varying industries. After that, simply typing the problem you are trying to fix into Google can help round out your results. Usually, Google will come back with some comparison matrices to give you an idea of the other products that are out there. Personally, I try to evaluate about 5 companies per quadrant (see above), to get an understanding of everything that is in the marketplace. Once your list of 20 (at least) is vetted, you can begin to work on narrowing them down to the top 3 to bring in for interviews.

Just Say No

Don’t ignore your specific requirements and let vendors talk you out of your goals. I have seen this happen more times than I’d like to admit. “We don’t have that feature, but we have something similar in beta that will be released this year.” If a vendor says something along those lines beware, and even if you think you can make things work until that key feature is released, keep in mind that it likely isn’t going to work how you want it to in the first iteration, and it’s going to take more time than originally promised to get it right. Again, understand what is important for you, and use some sort of decision matrix to help guide you.

Demo, Demo, Demo

Do not be afraid to ask dumb questions. Okay, we’ve made it this far and it is time for your top three to come in and provide demonstrations of the software. As the customer, ask as many questions as you can and drive the conversation. This is the part of the process that is really going to end up saving you time and saving your company money in the long run. As a consultant, I can ask the high-level questions, but at this point in the selection process it’s time for you to shine. Understand how implementation is going to work, what the warranty period is, how trouble shooting will work, etc. Ask every question you can think of. Come in with real data examples and ask the vendor to use them in real life scenarios. By the time you are ready to select your potential vendor, you should have seen at least 2-3 demos performed by them.

I’ve definitely come a long way from running my first vendor selection, but the most important thing I can tell you is that in most organizations, the vendor selection process is an important one. Making a mistake with your vendor choice can lead to a lot of headaches and complications down the road, so it is of the utmost importance that you get it right the first time.

READ MORE

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

Shifting Perspectives: 3 Learnings From a 3-Day Training

About a week ago, I completed the second live (virtual) training in the process of becoming a Certified Professional Coach through iPEC. Once again, my mind was blown! It reinforced for me that virtual workshops can, and do, work, and, in a lot of ways, I prefer them...

read more
Finding My Work-Life Balance

Finding My Work-Life Balance

In my previous post, I told the story of how I got back into consulting after becoming a mom. All of the diverse experiences I had during that journey have helped me to find my work-life balance by… Defining Boundaries “Go home,” my first boss said 12 years back —...

read more
How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

How I Got Back to Work After Being a Full-Time Mom

I Landed My Dream Job Throwback to 2014, I had completed my MBA, landed my dream job as a consultant, and was hoping that my new consulting career would exponentially ramp up my career growth for the next 5 years. This would position me to take on critical decision...

read more
Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

Self-Awareness is Key to Belonging

In August of this year, as part of our annual company meeting, our team at Thought Ensemble participated in the foundational session of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training led by Dr. Nika White, IOM, CDE (she/her/hers). One of the most meaningful moments...

read more
Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

Finding Your Organization’s Magic Pixie Dust

It is often said that organizational culture is like a fog — it is all around us; it impacts our ability to see, to move quickly, and to deliver; but we cannot quite put our finger on it. Indeed, some organizations see their culture as a byproduct of operations,...

read more
We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

We’ve Refreshed Our Brand!

Why have we refreshed our brand, you ask? Well, as we have grown and matured as an organization, we felt that our previous brand elements no longer represented us as well as they could. You see, we founded Thought Ensemble back in 2008 to help companies better compete...

read more
Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

Thought Ensemble’s Purpose — Inspired in 2020

I recently wrote about how company purpose is being tested and inspired by all the events of 2020. This topic is very real for us at Thought Ensemble. We’ve been thinking a lot about what really matters as we’ve navigated the...

read more
How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

How 2020 Is Testing and Inspiring Corporate Purpose

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable rewrote their statement of corporate purpose. I followed this with significant interest being that I have never forgotten the debates about corporate purpose in business school almost two decades ago. We were taught that the...

read more
Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

Why Purpose-Driven Organizations May Struggle With Change

I love working with companies who really want to make a difference, beyond just making money for their shareholders. I mean, making money is fun and all, but it is even more rewarding to join in on a just cause. Plus, as this HBR article explains, companies who have...

read more