The Art of Selecting a Technology Vendor

Lots of us find ourselves in a situation where we need to either acquire a new technology or replace a current supplier with someone else. It’s a complicated discussion to be taken seriously. I’ve probably led no less than 25 of these initiatives over my career. Some years ago we were looking to replace our e-mail service provider and kicked off a full RFP. The winner of that round was Bigfoot Interactive (no longer in business under that name). A gentleman named Jason Simon was the lead sales person for Bigfoot and represented them in the selection process. He was a big part of why Bigfoot prevailed over the other formidable firms.

That was several years ago. Jason recently reconnected with me, thanks to Social Media, and asked me to participate in a discussion about how I approach finding or replacing technology vendors on his blog Simon Sez: The Common Sense Blog. It was a great exercise for me, because it forced me to synthesize a couple of decades worth of experience and boil it down into a simple Q and A format. It was challenging, and because of how Jason framed the discussion, it ended up being fun.

Here’s an excerpt from Part 2.

Jason:  Steve, so far the feedback on our conversation has been strong.  There is so much to explore as we try to understand the challenges both buyers and sellers face when they are working on big RFP level deals.  One of the interesting things I’ve seen in the past is poorly written RFPs that have the same question asked multiple times; a clear indication that various stakeholders have submitted their departmental needs but that they haven’t been aligned with the entirety of the organization’s scope requirements. With that in mind, how do you lead the needs assessment that takes place?  How do you identify the internal owners, and how is that process managed before you even consider engaging vendors?

Steve: Your needs assessment should be informed by your strategy and roadmap.  Well crafted plans should include identifying the capabilities a company will need to build or buy.  The roadmap will tell you when you will need to acquire that capability or skill.  If you have been forward thinking enough to conduct annual performance evaluations of your agency or vendor (“A/V”) then you already have a baseline from internal stakeholders.  If not, you should solicit input from the people in your organization who work directly with the A/V, as well as the people who are directly impacted by the products and services that they provide.

Have a look at Part 1 and Part 2. I’m sure you will agree that Jason has a knack for simplifying the complex. Probably why he is so successful. Would value other perspectives, thoughts and experiences on how you go about choosing a new technology vendor. We are both happy to answer questions. Post them here or on Jason’s blog here.

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