Vendor Selection: A Fourteen-Point Guide: Page 2

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8) Strategic Vision What is the vendor’s strategic vision? How does it align with the needs of your organization? For example, if you plan to move to service oriented architecture in two years and the vendor does not, is that acceptable? In many respects, this is part of risk management (which we will cover shortly).

9) Quality Management What is the vendor’s quality management philosophy? What does the vendor do to ensure that customer requirements are met and that system errors are continuously being addressed? If a given tool is going to be mission critical in your organization, then you need assurances that it will reliably meet your requirements.

10) Implementation What are the vendor’s implementation capabilities? Do they have a formal implementation methodology that scales to your size organization? If they do not, then what assurances do you have that they can repetitively install systems with a high level of quality? Does their methodology demonstrate an understanding of what it takes to facilitate organizational change during their implementation?

11) Training What are their training capabilities? Proper training is essential to maximize the use of a tool. What training do they provide not just on the technical aspects but on the new processes that will be introduced? Does the training plan demonstrate an understanding of the needs of the organization?

12) Documentation What documentation do they provide? What documentation will they provide in terms of the work performed, configuration values set, etc.? What about instructions to the operations team in terms of how to maintain the system? What is online vs. offline? What will be provided that is specific to your implementation?

13) References When asking vendors for three references, you will undoubtedly get their three best references. Try to develop some independent references as well to see what other opinions you can obtain. For example, when interviewing their three references, ask them who they talked to and see if you can get some contact information. Then see what names are not on the vendor-supplied list, attempt to contact them and see what they have to say as well.

14) Risks Finally, consider the risks associated with each vendor. How are they doing financially? Are they a merger target? How is their industry doing? What is their technology direction? It pays to not only understand risks during vendor selection but during the implementation project as well. Risk management needs to monitor not just the project and organizational risks but also must explicitly monitor the vendor as well. If a vendor begins to have problems during the course of a long project, then mitigation plans must be developed.

In closing, organizations need to ensure they properly review both the tools and the vendors of those tools. As the level of investment – and level of importance – increases, then so do concerns over the risks associated with having both a successful implementation and partnering with the correct solution provider. By asking pertinent questions about the vendor in addition to the system, better procurement decisions can be made.

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