From The Editor | May 24, 2009

Vendor Selection Checklist

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These three tips can help you select vendors that will deliver the most value to your technology deployment.
 

Integrated Solutions, May/June 2009

When it comes to major personal purchases (e.g. vehicles, televisions, appliances, etc.), I am not a spontaneous buyer. I shop around exhaustively — comparing product features, reviews, and prices — until I find the best product for my needs at the best overall value.

This is a long, painstaking process (that often drives my wife crazy), but in the end, I rarely experience buyer's remorse. With the economy as bad as it is, I believe businesses would be wise to adopt a similar shopping style when it comes to choosing the vendors they work with for their technology deployments. The following are a few of my rules of thumb for selecting a vendor:

1. DO THEY ADVERTISE?
Think about it — would you purchase a new car or HDTV from a company you never heard of? Not likely. Instead, you'd probably lean toward products with highly recognized and trusted brand names. Brands are built through advertising and marketing. Of course, most asset tracking, field service, and content management vendors aren't going to run 30-second television spots during American Idol. However, they should have a presence in the media and marketing outlets that your business cares about. For example, do they advertise in the B2B print publications you read or websites you frequent? Do they sponsor or exhibit at the B2B trade shows and conferences you attend? If a vendor you're considering isn't spending money in these areas to enhance its own position in the market, how can you be confident that they will expend money and resources to support you throughout the life of your technology investment?

2. WHAT DO YOUR PEERS SAY?
One of the best ways I narrow my vendor search for personal purchases is by checking out a copy of Consumer Reports or by asking my friends and family how they feel about their recent investments. Obviously, you can't call up a competitor and expect them to answer questions about their technology investments. However, you can read case studies — both vendor-written and those authored by publications like Integrated Solutions — to see how companies similar to yours are successfully leveraging technology. You can also ask vendors to provide you with a list of references or ask them to arrange on-site visits with some of their clients. By visiting a client on-site, you not only get to see the technology in action firsthand, but you can also ask the customer questions a vendor may not answer honestly.

Searching for the right ECM vendor? Check out our 2009 ECM Advisor supplement online at ISMinfo.com/jp.

3. WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?
After I've heard what my peers have to say about a vendor, I usually turn to the experts. For vehicle shopping, this usually entails examining auto reviews in Car and Driver or www.JDPower.com. The B2B technology space has similar resources you can leverage to guide you through the vendor selection process. For example, Gartner, an IT research firm, has produced its "Magic Quadrant" reports for years. These reports rank vendors in more than 100 technology categories based on the completeness of their vision and their ability to execute. Another respected research firm, Aberdeen Group, has recently launched its own series of vendor evaluations called AXIS reports. Finally, Integrated Solutions regularly publishes special guides and supplements designed to help you select the technology vendors and products that are the best fit for your business. Check out the 2009 Field Service & Mobility Advisor supplement inserted in this issue.