Another source of generating potential vendors is
insurance industry conferences.
There are NAMIC (National
Association Mutual Insurance
Companies), ACORD / LOMA,
IASA, and RIMS (Risk Management Society) in addition to
other reputable conferences.
I rely heavily on research
analysts for potential vendors.
Analyst groups spend a great deal
of time interacting with vendors
and writing reports about various
aspects of the vendor community
such as technology platforms,
maturity, sales in the last year,
size, etc. Unless you are a client of
one of the research analysts, the
reports will cost an appropriate
amount. Given that you are likely
to spend, at a minimum, several
hundred thousand dollars, the
cost of one of these reports is
minimal. The research analysts
that I’m familiar with and interact
with on a regular basis are Novarica and Strategy Meets Action.
Additional sources are Gartner, Celent, and Forrester Research.
Fill in the Names
When you have identified the 12-15 potential vendors and
requirements, go back to your spreadsheet and fill in the names
of the companies across the top as shown in Figure 3: Vendor List
(the names of the vendors have been blacked out). I also created
a hyperlink of the company names that are linked to another tab
within the spreadsheet (vendor contact tab). This provides a place
to keep all contact information and dates of communication. At
the bottom of the vendor list tab, create a summation of each vendor’s columns so the points become totaled as you move forward
and as shown in Figure 2: Vendor Point Summation.
The next step in the process is to issue an RFI (Request for
Information) or RFP (Request for Proposal). My personal approach is to issue an RFI and then follow the steps I’ve outlined
below. As part of the RFI, I ask for a typical license fee and
professional services fee for a company our size. The sections
within the RFI need to contain what your business and technical requirements are and the vendor’s corporate information.
Be clear that you are using a weighted point-system and the
vendors need to provide clear answers and any gray area will get
marked as zero points.
Most vendors are good at providing answers that help the
process. Good partner-based vendors understand that they
don’t want to waste your time as well as theirs and will provide
concise answers. Send the RFI request to the contacts at the
various vendors with a date you need a response by. When the
RFIs come back, review the answers and enter the points into
the spreadsheet as shown in Figure 3: Vendor list.
Manage the Communication
At this point in the process, there is likely to be a lot of information being communicated between you and the vendors. To
manage this step I like to use Microsoft Notes. It is easy to set
up and is nicely integrated with Microsoft Outlook. This approach provides for multiple ways to store and search for your
vendor information and communication.
Once you have the RFIs back and all the information entered into the spreadsheet, you now have an objective view into
which companies you should look into further. My approach
has been to take the top five companies based on their total
point values. Each time I’ve used this methodology, I’m surprised by which companies make it to the list of five.
The next step in the process is to get a feel for the top five
vendors and their systems. You and your subcommittee have
seen all the literature and probably have talked at length with
respective vendor sales representatives. The approach I like to
use is to schedule an online corporate presentation and demo
for each of the five organizations within your subcommittee.
The agenda is for the vendor to go through their corporate
presentation about who they are, how long they have been in
business, and their value proposition. One of the most import-