How to evaluate technology vendors in 7 steps
Find solutions that bring about transformation
As a consultant working on behalf of clients, a thorough evaluation of the business’s technology vendors against the unique needs of the business needs is necessary to bring about successful business transformation.
Evaluating technology, however, is a long and complex process, made even more difficult by the ongoing pandemic and the changes to our way of working that it has caused. If you thought shadowing teams and stakeholders to gather and rank software requirements were burdensome before March 2020, try doing that all online, remotely.
Adding layers of technology to your trusted technology evaluation process with remote stakeholders is a nightmare. Cross-referencing information in a plethora of project management tools, spreadsheets, and the like to determine a shortlist of solutions can only lead to inefficiencies. Ironic, as many IT consultants are engaged to help the company make sweeping changes to their technology and processes, fit into this new world and way of working.
Consultants need to assess the current situation, gain insights from key stakeholders on the business’s needs, build lists of requirements, determine the validity of each requirement, build out an RFP, etc. The process is tedious and can often be rife with bias and risk, but it is necessary to transform successfully.
Here is how you cut through the tedium and noise to facilitate a collaborative process that drives innovation and brings speed and agility to your methods.
Olive’s 7 step technology evaluation process
1. Determine a business case for the solution required
A well constructed business case ensures that companies realize measurable benefits of the solution required. It ensures the project achieves the overarching business goals, not just the needs of specific departments, IT, Finance, etc. Ensure critical leaders and stakeholders are aligned on the business case for the technology. Describe the business challenge and assess the potential benefits the solution investment will bring to validate its need. Often, other options could solve the problem, such as upgrading the current tech stack or improving business processes. While a business case can validate the reasoning for a new solution, it may also reveal an obvious course of action.
2. Put the business needs at the center of the technology evaluation process
Understanding the needs of the business is a crucial step in the technology evaluation process. Ideally the identification of these needs is a collaborative process between critical decision-makers.
Critical Considerations for your client;
- What are your business goals for the next year?
- What areas of the business are growing, and what areas are shrinking?
- How could this solution impact those business goals?
- Do we have the proper budget for our needs?
- What would be the impact of doing nothing?
Answering these questions will help determine the high level business needs. Ensure all stakeholders think critically about these needs. This step can often reveal that a larger budget is required. Taking the time to define the business needs at this juncture can make a case for that. Traditionally this work is done in spreadsheets and by hosting multiple meetings. However, business needs often change over time and even throughout the evaluation. The traditional method of a moment in time RFP is outdated. Companies need to be more agile and pivot on short notice and allow for flexibility over time. Olive's agile platform can be a massive help for this reason.
3. Define and rank your requirements list for the technology
When the client is aligned on what the business needs are, the next step is to rank and define the must-have requirements list, the non-negotiables that the technology must have, including but not limited to;
- Essential Functionality
- Integrations with current enterprise software infrastructure
Upon defining these must-haves, you can then take a look at your nice-to-have requirements. This may include;
- User Experience
- White labeling and branding
- Mobile platform
This should be a collaborative effort amongst key stakeholders in your client’s organization. As a consultant, you must ensure these requirements are well written. When you begin the process, make a list as long as possible, and then rank and define the list according to needs, and trim itdown where you can. This ranked list will act as your guide when you begin researching options and demoing products.
When ranking this list, there are some critical considerations for your client. To prompt this thought process, ask;
- What sort of accessibility do you need the technology to have?
- Do you need the vendor to provide an implementation plan and support?
- What are the shortcomings of the current technology or process?
- What technical features does the solution need to have?
- What workflows must the new technology incorporate or facilitate?
- What problems should the new technology solve?
4. Determine the ROI on the right technology
Determine the ROI of the proposed technology by looking at the price vs. value. There may be many cost savings down the line. This value is often overlooked. Showing clearly the return on investment that the right solution will provide to the whole company strengthens its case. Often, a newer technology that is cheaper in the short term ends up being way more costly in the long term. Sometimes a more costly solution is needed for true innovation.
5. Determine the long list of vendors
List as many vendors as possible within your bandwidth that meet the general requirements of what the client needs. The client often has a vendor in mind that they have worked with before and would like to engage. They are “positive” that the vendor is perfect for this use case. However, when comparing this vendor to the needs of the business, there are apparent shortcomings. There may be a bias there that can skew the project. Building the long list of technology vendors and comparing them to the requirements makes it easier to show why that particular vendor is or is not a match. Reviews can help look at the product from a user's perspective and investigating what technologies are on the market. You can glean some great insights from online reviews, such as what their customer support looks like or any unexpected outcomes from previous projects. Remember that vendors pay to play in this space on most technology review websites like Capterra or G2 crowd, and reviews may be biased. Another thing to consider is that these solutions may be the right choice for one industry but are not matched to the unique business needs. A deeper investigation and comparison are required.
6. Get to a shortlist of best-fit technology vendors
Now, you have your ranked requirements list, outlined cost considerations, and researched as many vendors as you logistically can in the space - you can get to a shortlist of best-fit vendors or products that will work for you using your specific business needs as the filter.
How to get to a shortlist, fast;
- Eliminate products that are over budget
- Eliminate products that don’t meet the top-ranked requirements on your list
- Look at the remaining vendors and rank them according to how they meet the needs determined by your requirements list.
- Use a technology evaluation platform like Olive to reveal a shortlist of solutions as stakeholders gain consensus on requirements.
Jumping straight into demos will allow vendors to take control of the process and inject serious bias into the process. Often selling your clients things they don't need. Wait until there is a shortlist of 3-5 vendors who meet requirements, then conduct demonstrations of the potential solutions. Schedule a demo with your client and the vendor. Take your time in conducting the demo, and ensure the right stakeholders are present. Survey users to get their feedback.
During the demo, keep an open mind to new ideas provided by vendors, but remember to “lead with your business needs.” Do not allow the vendors to take the client down a road that is more aligned with their offering than your client’s needs. Demoing products is considered the most crucial step of the software selection process, so to avoid going off track, prepare for these demos to maximize learnings.
Recommending the right technology vendor
Based on the product demos, there will likely be a clear front-runner. Remove bias from the decision-making process by comparing them once more to the ranked list of requirements. Then, do your due diligence in ensuring that you choose a solution based on your client’s needs and goals, without bias, with plenty of input from various stakeholders.
Your expertise, plus technology built for consultants, can give you an edge amongst your competitors.
Consultants are turning to specific project management tools like Olive, built to help consultants automate the more tedious aspects of their technology evaluation process, so they too can leverage the benefits of digital transformation. Many large consulting agencies still run the process of technology evaluations in outdated tools (basically, a collection of spreadsheets). It doesn’t mean the entire consulting industry needs to be held back from innovation. Smaller, more agile agencies and firms may find it easier to leverage the benefits of digital transformation to adopt solutions to innovate their technology evaluation processes, manage clients and projects with more ease, and open up new opportunities.
Your expertise, combined with a technology evaluation platform, like Olive can help you expedite revenue growth, and even open up entire new revenue streams. Olive brings efficiency to your process, helping you run your technology evaluation process faster, with increased efficiency and due diligence. You can redirect time and resources saved to grow your consulting business and improve your bottom line.
Use Olive to run your technology evaluation process
With Olive, you can;
- Manage multiple projects and clients
- Manage and save your project, requirement, and survey templates
- Check out various project requirements ahead of time in our rich requirements libraries
- Quickly gather stakeholder feedback through surveys
- Invite vendors to respond to requirements
- Automate due diligence
- Get to a shortlist in less time