Check out part 1 of this 3 part series, Identify Your Key Stakeholders.
Now that you have identified your stakeholders and curated a set of their requirements, you’ll need to set the expectations of what the ideal vendor partner should provide. In short, before you make the first official contact with a potential vendor, you should also know the results you expect from your interactions with the vendors and how you will structure the evaluation to achieve them. Consider the following:
Why are you performing the vendor evaluation? Are you looking for a plug-and-play solution, a specific service, or a strategic partner for future projects? Defining what you need to achieve with a vendor up-front will help to anchor all of the subsequent conversations and make disqualifying misaligned vendors more straightforward.
How many rounds of evaluation will be needed? What information do you need to determine if a vendor is an appropriate fit, how much can you cover in each interaction without becoming overwhelmed with data, and what criteria will you use to determine which vendors should proceed to the next round of the evaluation? The complexity of your requirements and the importance of non-product factors, such as experience, price, service, and vendor culture, can help you determine how many sessions to arrange as well as the order and focus for each.
What format will be used in each round of the evaluation? Emails, virtual calls, on-site demos, proposals, and hands-on trials all have their place in the process and it’s important to know which to leverage when. For instance, if the vendor is not local, a remote call would be sufficient for an introductory overview of the company, but for a later phase, a full-day in-person session may be more appropriate.
When will each round of the evaluation take place? Approximately how long will the vendors need to prepare before each round and how much time will your team need to evaluate the information provided before determining who proceeds to the next phase of the evaluation? Keep in mind that the cadence of engagements will be impacted by the deadline for a decision, the number of vendors you’re evaluating, the complexity of the products being evaluated, and whether you have resources or consultants dedicated to the evaluation full-time.
Which stakeholders will be involved in each session? How do you make sure that each impacted team is represented at critical points in the evaluation? While it may be appropriate to incorporate some redundancy into your pool of stakeholders for critical perspectives, you also do not want to divert from your planned course due to too many voices providing conflicting directions. If you’re unable to create a small, stable review panel of stakeholders to provide a consistent perspective across vendors and rounds of the evaluation, you will need to make sure that your core evaluation team is familiar enough with the requirements from each impacted group to represent their viewpoint in any interaction with the vendors, even if they are unable to attend a session.
Once you have your evaluation structured, you’ll be ready to connect with your vendors and set up the initial round of the evaluation.
Stay tuned for Part 3, Thorough Documentation coming next week!