Ask the expert – Harriet Barker and Billy Peat, both Business Change Consultants

This month’s resident experts are Harriet Barker and Billy Peat, both Business Change Consultants at Hart Square. Billy has been delivering projects with HBF, the Children’s Society and Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) with Harriet working with Ben (charity for the automotive industry) and STEM Learning to name but a few. In this month’s “ask the expert” article, they discuss how to make an informed decision when choosing a new technology provider.

Vendor selections – how to make an informed decision

At Hart Square, we carry out around 25 vendor selection projects per year, where we aim to run engaging and informative selection processes so that our clients can confidently appoint an appropriate partner for their implementation project.

Importantly, we’re not there to make the decision for you. As an independent consultancy, we’ll support you with choosing appropriate organisations to invite to tender, but it’s completely down to you to decide who to go with.

It’s therefore critical that our clients use every opportunity they can to gather information about the vendors to support their final decision. Here are some tips we recommend to really get the most out of vendor selections.

Speak to the vendors’ clients

A key part of selecting a new technology provider is speaking to their existing clients through the references they provide. This is an important part of the process as it enables you to speak directly to representatives who have worked with your potential providers, independently of both Hart Square and the vendors themselves.

We encourage our clients to speak to references as early as possible within the process and where feasible to arrange site visits to see the technology in action. The purpose is to not only discover the positives but understand the lessons they have learned and how the vendors overcame any challenges.

References are extremely important to get a more rounded view of the vendors and we strongly recommend that you make the time early in the process to carry them out.

Don’t judge by sales people

Every selection process should involve at least one face-to-face touchpoint for you to meet each vendor and see a demo of their solution. At Hart Square, we think that’s so important that we have three face-to-face meetings in our selection processes, each with a different focus.

This gives our clients the chance to really get to know the vendors, clarify any areas in the ITT, and get a feel for whether they are a good cultural fit for their organisation. The technology solution is of course an important factor in deciding who to go with, but it’s also important that you feel you’ll be able to work well with the technology provider.

It’s important to remember though – the people you’re meeting will mostly be in the sales team and once the project starts you likely won’t see them very much. Make sure you get to meet at least one or two people from the project team to get a better idea of who you’ll be working with.

Structure the final presentation

Each vendor you’re considering for the project should be asked to finish the selection process by presenting their proposal to you in person. This is their last chance to engage with you so it’s important to think through what you want to get out of the meeting and share this with them in advance.

This is a good opportunity to ask to see demos of specific scenarios (we suggest between 4-6) that are critical areas for the project. It’s equally important to ensure there is enough time to discuss the project methodology, project timelines and to ask any other questions of the vendors that you may want to clarify from their proposal.

Thinking through these expectations in advance and providing an agenda means they have the best opportunity to showcase their solution and ensures you’ll get what you need from the final presentation.

Don’t base everything on just functionality

When it comes down to making your final decision, it shouldn’t just be based on the technology solutions. What else is important to you about who you work with? Do you have a preferred delivery approach, or is it necessary that they have experience working with similar organisations? It’s useful to think through these criteria early to help structure your decision-making process and ensure you get all information necessary from the providers throughout the process.

At Hart Square, we include Selection Criteria in our Invitation to Tender, detailing the key criteria that is important to our client and which their decision will be based upon. This gives vendors the chance to address these points during the vendor selection process to give you confidence that they are a good fit for your project.

In summary:

  • Check out references
  • Get to know the whole team not just the sales person
  • Have a structure to meetings to ensure you get the most out of them
  • It’s not just about functionality

If you would like to discuss this further, please email us at info@hartsquare.co.uk