Assessing Vendors: A Hands-On Guide to Assessing
This book does not apply equally to all organizations. While the process itself will function in any size business, some businesses are structured such that any one person cannot be present for all phases of the process. As a rule of thumb, the larger your organization is, the fewer phases you may be involved in.
In large organizations, there are additional constraints beyond the relatively simple considerations of finding a vendor that provides “good enough” products or services. The cost structures of working at massive scale often force you into choosing a smaller set of vendors that are already approved by a vetting process. The political nature of working with multiple levels of people can force a predetermined vendor to win the selection process. You may also be given a set of criteria from a different team and won’t be able to select your own criteria. In many cases, in fact, the process is not to choose the best vendor but to simply provide a “go/no go” decision for a particular vendor.
In extremely small organizations, you may well be bound more by time than any other factor. If this is the case, the entire process may be overly burdensome for decisions that must be made very quickly. Money will, of course, always be a factor, but if you don’t have the time to make a well-researched decision, time concerns will override those of money.
Finally, in purpose-driven nonprofit organizations, financial concerns may not a factor at all. While there are far more nonprofit organizations running on shoe string budgets, there is a class of organization, often governmental, that has no budget concerns at all. In these organizations, the concern is solving the problem at hand and not negotiating over price.
Thus, if you do not have the ability to actually select vendors to feed into the assessment process, you should start reading at Functional Testing. If you are expected to provide a straightforward “go/no go” decision for a vendor, you should stop reading at the end of Deep Testing. If you are just expected to provide relative risk scores for vendors, start at Functional Testing and stop at Weighting and Scoring or Adjusting Needs, depending on how deep your company needs you to go.
If you are extremely bound by time, you may wish to skip Deep Testing and Adjusting Needs entirely and jump straight from Scoring and Weighting to Pricing and Negotiation. This will result in a less-well-tuned choice, but if you are blocked by time constraints by making the choice properly, you’ll still be picking the best option available to you.
Finally, if you are not involved with pricing and are focused strictly on how well a solution will address a particular problem, you should stop reading at the end of Adjusting Needs. There is no need to get into the intricacies of pricing and negotiation if you won’t be negotiating at all.
In all of these cases, of course, you risk making a decision on a vendor that won’t address your issues very well. If you can’t drive the process and alter the criteria based on what you find, you can’t tune the vendor’s offering to your precise needs. If you are stuck buying from a preapproved vendor with whom you have a site license, you are cutting off a wide range of options, often newer vendors who have a better value proposition. If you must decide simply whether or not to renew a product and there is great political pressure to renew, it could be career limiting to decide otherwise.
However, if this is the situation you are in, you are not actually being tasked with selecting a good vendor. You are being tasked with maintaining the status quo. While no one needs a book for that, it might help you to read the entire process so you can better understand your own organization’s failings and prepare to do better at your next job.
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