ant goals within this step of the process is to have the demo of
the vendor’s system cover the high-level requirements. This will
help clear up any miscommunication or misunderstandings
about what you were looking for in a system and vendor organization. Adjust the spreadsheet numbers if needed and if there
has been significant miscommunication, take the vendor out of
the mix and bring your number six vendor into the mix.
Narrow the Focus
At this time, you and your subcommittee have seen a good mix of
vendor presentations and demos and the point assignments have
been adjusted as needed. It is now time to select the top three
vendor candidates and shift the process to the full committee.
The selection of the top three vendors is as simple as reviewing
which three vendors have the highest number of points. The
subcommittee should present to the full committee the list of five
companies and the details behind the points for the top three
vendors and the reasons for cutting two from the list.
The next step in the process is to reduce the vendor list from
three to two. This is done by bringing in the three vendors to
present to the full selection committee. Some subtle things that
help in this step of the process are to schedule the three vendors’
presentations in the same week and when each full committee
member can be present. I also like to provide a version of the
selection spreadsheet to each committee member so they can see
the individual requirements, and information gathered to date.
The allotted time for the presentations should be three to
four hours. The vendors may invite you to dinner the night before the presentation and ask for some coaching. This is a great
opportunity to get to know the key resources within the vendor
organization. The fact the vendor is asking for coaching is a sign
that a vendor is likely to want to work with you in the implementation. Ask the subcommittee to keep lots of notes through
the vendor onsite presentations and demos.
At the end of each presentation, ask for a short debrief time
with the full committee. While the presentation is fresh in
everyone’s mind, ask and document the pros and cons of the
vendor. Ask the full committee to rank the order of preference
of the vendors that have presented to date. Go back to the point
assessment spreadsheet and adjust as needed. Keep clear records of this information because it should be part of the official
selection document you prepare. You may rely on it heavily in
the future if you need to defend your process (i.e. new corporate
management, board of directors, litigation process). The points
should reflect the general consensus of the full committee’s
choice of the top two vendors.
Undoubtedly the full committee will have questions about the two
remaining vendors that surfaced as part of the presentations and
system demos. The final two vendors should be brought in for a
second round of discussions where answers to questions from the
first round can be discussed. It is important each of the vendors
brings in members of their proposed implementation team (project
manager and architect) if they didn’t during the first round of pre-
sentations and demos. Feel free to heavily question the vendor’s
implementation team members. These are the resources you are
going to be working with for a lengthy period of time. Also ask for
and review resumes of the proposed team members.
It is important to have the final two vendor meetings in
close proximity to keep all the information fresh for committee
members. Likewise, get the full committee together shortly
after the two meetings and make the final decision on who the
primary selected vendor is.
The final step in the process is to get a detailed proposal
and contracts from the final two vendors. I’ve been clear to
each vendor who is the primary recommended vendor and the
secondary vendor. Through the contract analysis, you should
feel confident in your primary recommendation, if not, or if
something breaks downs in the negotiation process, you have
the secondary vendor to fall back on.
As the IT manager or leader in this process, I’ve always written up the official selection document. This document includes
the process you went through, who the vendors were, and why
the primary vendor was selected. It is also just as important to
document why certain vendors were not selected.
Some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years with this
process is to make sure you have your stakeholders identified
and involved in the process. Be sure to communicate the
process to your stakeholders before you begin. The vendor
community will naturally gravitate to demoing what shows well
with their systems; be sure to communicate that you also want
to see how their system addresses your specific requirements.
As one of the corporate leaders, be sure that you understand
your company’s short-term and long-term goals and objectives
and take both into account when searching for the right vendor.
And finally, when it comes to contracts make sure that license
agreements and professional services agreements are tied togeth-
er if the vendor is going to provide both services; this will help in
future litigation if you were to have implementation issues. For
most contract reviews, I leverage a law group that specializes in
software-based contracts (Marzouk & Parry, Washington, D.C.).
The vendor selection process is meant to act like a funnel
where a significant number of vendors are brought into the process at the beginning and through a series of conscious steps, one
primary and one secondary vendor come out at the end. This
roadmap is an unbiased, collaborative, requirement-weighted
approach that will yield vendors that best meet your objectives
and requirements. Good luck with the process and may all your
future strategic implementations be successful. ITA
(Larry Fortin is CIO of Millers Mutual Insurance and a
member of the Insurance Technology Association advisory