Four-Step Approach to Vendor Selection

Four-Step Approach to Vendor Selection

Laura Drabik

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As we prepare for our July 4th celebration, I recently purchased firecrackers and was reading the instructions on the back of the label;

Light, then get away.

One might consider this an example of unnecessary instructions, but that would assume that the user of the firecrackers is product domain knowledgeable before first operation. If not, then those instructions are vital for successful operation.

As the director of business transformation at Guidewire, I collaborate with carriers to plan their software evaluation roadmaps and, it recently occurred to me that unlike firecrackers, there isn’t a set of instructions to ensure success. So, based upon my years of experience I wrote the 4-step approach to empower carriers to home in on the right trusted partner.

Step 1: Determine the Business Mandate You Want to Evaluate

“Grow the business x percent in x years” and “Improve customer satisfaction by x percent in x years” are both examples of business mandates. Understanding your business need is a critical component to planning your unique evaluation process. The supporting events that you select, and the workshops and deliverables you define should all serve to prove your business mandate.

Step 2: Define Success

All fairy tales begin with “once upon a time.” They start off weaving a tale about the hero’s or heroine’s current painful environment but then lead the reader down a path to an ideal future state. When defining the success of your evaluation process, envision your “happily ever after” and also, how it contrasts with your current environment. Gather input from the business, technology and distribution teams to ensure you obtain a big-picture view of your future state.

Step 3: Agree Upon the Evaluation Events

When evaluating software vendors, I find that carriers typically think solely in terms of technology or product demonstrations. Although demonstrations are important, they are only the tip of the iceberg when evaluating who will be your trusted partner for the long term. To ensure you get below the water line in an evaluation process, consider including the right combination of:

  • Teaming events to educate the vendor on you, and you on the vendor. These events include role observations of vital work processes as well as vendor guided value workshops which provide guidance for business case development.

  • Technology events to educate you on both the functional and technical underpinnings of the vendor’s solution as it relates to your business or how you want to do business in the future. Because of the teaming events, the vendor will be better able to tailor presentations to meet your unique needs.

  • Establishing trust concentrates on events that determine whether or not this vendor can get your future project across the goal line. In your evaluation process this could include headquarters visits to see where the product is developed, as well as customer reference visits or calls.

Step 4: Staff the Evaluation Engagement

The evaluation engagement requires representatives or stakeholders from effected areas of the business and technology — “subject matter experts” or SMEs — that can speak to department-specific issues. Imperative to the success of any evaluation process is staffing with the best and brightest SMEs.

Now if only I could find a label large enough to stick these instructions on…