Businesses are bombarded with analyst tips and research regarding how to select an IT service provider. Some of these evaluation mechanisms become rather complex with weighting applied to specific points and then tallied to rank vendors. At the top of many of the analyst's evaluation models are: industry knowledge, domain knowledge and cost – which translated, means pure innovation is not as highly sought after as overall competitive advantage.
To support this, businesses need a proven paradigm for evaluating the solutions providers for their most treasured initiatives (let’s face it, low-risk and low profile projects don’t need much in the way of vendor evaluation, except maybe proof that the resources are competent). What follows is a high level evaluation framework – straight from the horse’s mouth -- that can help identify the strongest players from the imposters. This line of questioning is a different model from the “CMM-level, number-of-consultants and location-of-offices” line of questioning that purchasing departments are more accustomed to, but it will throw the scripted presenters off their game. Without too much effort, you’ll be able to determine whether the firm’s representative you’re talking to is worth talking to any further. Then go ahead and ask them how many offices they have – you know you want to.
The Client Cheat Sheet
- Value Proposition - What are the firm’s core competencies? What business problems can they help me solve? How is MY competition approaching this problem?
- Differentiation - What framework, templates or accelerators does the firm have for this solution? How will they approach this problem/ solution for me?
- Delivery Model - Who will do the work for this? Does the leadership team stay involved? What teaming approach will work for this situation?
- Value - How has the value of the solution been communicated? ROI? Other? How will we measure the value attainment of this solution?
- Risk - What is the services provider risking to ensure success? What are they asking our firm to risk to ensure success?
- Culture - What is the management culture of the solutions firm? (sales-oriented, delivery-focused, customer-focused, market leader or follower?) Is the culture a match, complement or conflict with your organization? Are the employees’ behaviors consistent with the corporate culture?
- Consider the Big Picture - Have you considered all the factors that are important to your project’s success? Which are most important? Are there trends that signal other problems? Are there large inconsistencies that can’t be reconciled?
Know What You’re Looking for
In the final analysis, vendors will always reposition themselves to meet market needs, so clients need to be honest about what they are looking for. Beware: a “jack-of-all trades” solution provider probably won’t give you the specialty expertise needed – but they may offer bargain-basement fixed pricing. Take the tough initiatives to the firms that give you the confidence to say to your boss – “they know what they’re doing.” Save the bargain basement for work that won’t bring the business (or your job) down.