Part 1: Identify Your Key Stakeholders
The evaluation of a new vendor requires a great deal of planning to avoid getting lost in the process or bogged down in conflicting requirements and bureaucracy. A mismanaged evaluation or the selection of the wrong vendor can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. It can potentially disrupt productivity, waste time, resources, and money to make a bad solution better, and even result in political fallout for the team responsible for the decision.
How to Avoid Making the Wrong Choice
Before you begin to reach out to prospective vendors, you’ll want to make sure that you have identified all the key stakeholders within your organization. They will be impacted by a new product or vendor, and you’ll be able to assess their requirements and preferences. When building your evaluation team include stakeholders who are directly impacted by a new product, such as end users, managers, and representatives from related functions or systems. Make sure to include anyone who determines compatibility, compliance, and the financial impact of your selection. To ensure that their requirements are met, these users should be encouraged to provide feedback throughout the evaluation process.
While Forming Your Team:
- Determine what roles stakeholders will play, not only once a new product is launched but also during the evaluation. Participation from impacted groups will indicate that their preferences are being considered and will create advocates within the company.
- Identify an executive sponsor for the project or someone able to navigate the potential politics and determine how to handle issues that arise. Without an executive sponsor, the involved parties may be unable to make a final decision, leaving you without the consensus needed to move forward.
- Confirm everyone’s availability and commitment to the process. The absence of a key player will result in issues later on. When determining who will represent a particular functional area, find someone familiar with the implications of a new product and willing to participate in all of the evaluation activities.
- Meet with and document requirements from each stakeholder group. Make sure everyone is on the same page regarding priorities and the baseline functionality of the product or vendor. Without clarifying your goals, you increase the risk of making compromises that will leave everyone unsatisfied. How you prioritize your requirements, whether they are related to features, culture, price, or something entirely unique to your company, can change the outcome of an evaluation.
Consider a Consultant
If organizing a team and gathering conflicting priorities seems daunting, a consultant can be a great option. An experienced consultant will run meetings with stakeholders to collect requirements for a new vendor or product, organize the information into an easy-to-consume format, and help define the critical attributes against which to measure your prospects, all without the risks that internal resources may encounter.
Once you identify stakeholders, you’ll need to refine your list of potential vendors based on your requirements. Then determine who you need to connect with to answer your questions and provide demos. A consultant may be of assistance to leverage existing relationships or knowledge of the vendor to narrow the playing field and broker the initial introductions.
Finally, determine if you or your consultants have access to any existing vendor relationships to get a “first-hand” and practical perspective of the vendor’s capabilities. These reviews are the key to a final decision on who will make the best long-term partner.