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Vendor Evaluation – Know your vendors!

A key part of any vendor evaluation during an RFP process is to really get to know your potential vendors.  Certain due diligence should be performed against the short listed vendors to ascertain the fit between the vendor and your organisation.  Factors such as: Financial, Technical, Functional, and Cultural fit are all important aspects to consider when performing a vendor evaluation against their products and services.

All four of those areas are just as important on day one of becoming a customer, as they are throughout the lifetime of the product and service.

Just looking at the technical aspect, areas that you should at least cover in due diligence include:

  • Ease and speed of Implementation

  • How to configure to meet your needs, today and into the future

  • How often is the application upgraded, and how easy is the application to upgrade

  • Is the technology modern enough to work with my other applications?

Ease and Speed of Implementation

Gone are the days (or so they should be) of 6-12 month durations for a HR Case Management project.  Your HR Case Management vendor should be talking weeks not months, challenge them why it is taking them longer.  I expect the answer to be based around their product requiring  a lot of resources to implement, lots of custom coding, intensive and complicated training, and long test cycles before go live.  Those were the old traditional software project war stories, we all want to forget about.

How to configure, today and into the future

This is really important, the last thing you want is to pay for professional services when you just want to simply change the way the application works.  Modern applications should be intuitive, and built for non technical people to configure and change. Ideally, and always has been my preference, the vendor should train you on how the application is configured, as they themselves configure it for you.  If it needs a PHD in computer science to operate, look elsewhere!

How often is the application upgraded, and how easy is the application to upgrade?

So important, yet often this area is overlooked.  Customers now expect regular updates, even consumers experience this – think about the countless updates your smartphone makes on a daily basis.  These updates need to be painless, simple, and quick – so as not to disrupt your normal business operations.

Ask your vendor how often they are providing new features, ask them how the update process works and if there is a cost, and ask the vendor how long should each update take?  Here are the Dovetail answers;

  • 4 times per year

  • We do all upgrades for you, at no additional charge

  • Each upgrade should take no more than 2-4 hours outside of your business hours

If you are hearing a different answer then you really should ask yourself what the direction of that vendor is.  I would not be surprised to see these as the answers you hear from other vendors:

  • Upgrades, hmm, perhaps once every two years maybe more…

  • Customer, you are on your own doing the upgrade, or we can do it for you, at a price…

  • Perhaps a 1-4 month project, at whose expense?

Why this is imperative to know upfront is simply TOC, or Total Cost of Ownership.  If the upgrade is going to take months, who’s cost centre is covering for your own internal resources to build the project team, and help with the upgrade.  These are the hidden charges so many vendors don’t want you to think about!

Is the technology modern enough to work with my other applications?

You’ve probably made a significant investment in HR technology already, so it makes sense that any new purchase will work with existing applications where practical.  Modern day applications are built using the latest and greatest technology.  For example, a genuine SaaS vendor would have designed their product to be aware of the current technical surroundings (the internet), whereas an on premise, or a hosted by the vendor “saas” product will have been designed only to work within the walls of your firm.

So, how do you make sure your vendor evaluation takes items like this into consideration.  Asking the vendor directly is a start, but making the all important reference calls is much better.

Another tip, since a vendor can always send you their “ideal” customer for that call, what I have done is some investigation and basic homework, using tools such as Google and LinkedIn, to connect with other customers of the vendor to ask those all important questions.

This is why, real vendor evaluation is key, don’t just listen to the sales pitch, or the fancy slides in the presentation.  Do some research, investigate, and deliver a successful project that your company will not only talk about for years to come, they will also see true value and benefits over the lifetime of the HR Case Management system.

I shall cover the Financial, Functional and Cultural fit within another post, but welcome readers feedback as always!

Regards

Kane

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