Selecting tech vendors can be a difficult task for IT managers. A poor choice can leave a business in a quagmire of delayed or incomplete projects.
Choosing the wrong tech vendors can lead to severe consequences for your business, including the potential to lose customers or market share to your competitors. So then, what criteria should IT managers apply when selecting a tech vendor?
Get the requirements clear
First, understand the requirements of the business. These vary by industry and individual company, so IT and procurement teams need to implement a process to capture and prioritise the needs of all functions and business teams.
This exercise helps streamline the evaluation and shortlist process, as IT vendors, products and services that do not meet the business’s needs can be eliminated quickly. Engaging these teams at an early stage of an IT project can also secure support that may prove invaluable in helping deliver the project on time.
Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the tech vendors that remain on the list. This exercise should confirm whether an IT vendor has the products and services to meet the business's needs and the culture to operate as a partner. For larger projects or projects that impact on a company's ability to grow and compete, an IT vendor that constantly looks for and proposes ways to add value is a key asset.
This evaluation should include an examination of the credentials and qualifications of each vendor and the team it puts forward for a project. Not only does this help a business determine whether the vendor can deliver its products and services without disrupting an existing IT environment, it also indicates whether the vendor is prepared to recruit well and train its staff thoroughly.
Interview vendors' customers
The business should also interview other customers of the vendors on the list. This enables the procurement and technology teams to identify strengths and weaknesses, and formulate an independent view of the vendors' track records. Where possible, these interviews should cover the challenges the vendors faced in delivering projects, how they overcame them and whether they applied the lessons learnt in future engagements.
Align vendors with business requirements
Another important issue to evaluate is the extent to which a vendor can meet most, or even all, of the business's requirements. By working with a single provider to achieve most of its needs, a business can minimise the time and resources it requires to invest in relationship management. The focused scrutiny can also reduce the chance of IT projects falling behind or not meeting requirements.
Finally, the business should consider the proposed solutions based on price and the outcomes of any technology pilots undertaken to validate the vendors' products. When the final selection is made, the business needs to make sure its contract with the vendor is comprehensive and legally watertight, and that the requirements are clearly understood by all parties.
It is important to remember that this is still early days in the project process. Further keys to success include working closely with the selected vendor or vendors to develop a comprehensive implementation plan. This includes a requirement that each vendor reports accurately and regularly on progress towards project milestones and deadlines.
These are just some of the steps small to medium businesses can take to select tech vendors that can help them succeed. In an increasingly competitive sector where agility and responsiveness are at a premium, businesses cannot afford to take shortcuts when evaluating prospective partners.
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