Contact centers always seem to be short on time and resources when it comes to their selection processes for new technology. And most are under pressure to move fast. Here are some common mistakes that don’t serve them over the long haul.
ONE: Failure to assess the upside potential of your current solution. If your technology selection process is an outgrowth of dissatisfaction with your current vendor/VAR, spend some time to determine if it is the technology or the services (or both) causing the problem. You could be blaming the technology yet haven’t stayed current on upgrades. Or a lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities among your internal IT, the VAR, and the vendor could look like service issues that could be addressed with a better agreement and vendor management. While you may still move forward with a new solution, you’ll gain valuable insights to improve your selection process.
TWO: Failure to document requirements. Even if you are only talking to one vendor (which we certainly wouldn’t recommend), you need to articulate your specific needs in a 5-10 page document. Otherwise your quoted price won’t include all the components and licenses you need, and you’ll get an incomplete or generic Statement of Work (SOW).
THREE: Failure to focus on key differentiators. RFPs often include long lists of features and functions that are common to all vendors that obscure the real differences between them. Focus on critical requirements that align with your IT environment, operational plans, and support needs.
FOUR: Failure to determine the sourcing approach that fits your business requirements and IT strategy. Technology can be premised-based, cloud/hosted, or a hybrid. The sourcing decision is typically based on IT support resource availability and/or operation’s desire for deeper involvement in the solution. It may reflect a push by C-Level executives to migrate from capital expenses to operational expenses, or a desire to move contact center technology support to a third party. Unless you’re clear on your preferred sourcing model, you won’t narrow the field of vendors to consider.
FIVE: Failure to account for vendor strategy. Vendor strategy defines whether they sell direct or through VARs, which sourcing and support options they offer direct and through partners, and which markets and sizes they target. If your preferred vendors collaborate with others on solution delivery, check to see that their partners have the right characteristics (size, geography, industry, strategic focus) for your environment.
SIX: Failure to define evaluation criteria. Evaluation criteria are not the same as requirements. Requirements help the vendor understand your needs so they know what to propose; criteria differentiate and evaluate vendor responses. Define criteria as categories like Features/Functions, Technical Fit, Implementation, Support, Vendor Fit and Price. Then define each category with a few bullets. It is relatively easy to weight and score five to seven differentiating categories; rating individual requirements within each category is an exercise in futility.
SEVEN: Failure to provide a clear definition of your expectations for vendor proposals. If you want to save time and make apples-to-apples comparisons, specify how you want each proposal structured. Make it clear you don’t want long, “boilerplate” responses. Most importantly, specify how you want the pricing structured and at what granularity.
EIGHT: Failure to orchestrate vendor/VAR presentations. Stay in the driver’s seat. Don’t let the vendor take control. Provide an agenda that includes demos of key user interfaces, technical discussion to address IT needs, and a list of critical questions regarding implementation, support, SLAs, pricing, etc. Leave “optional items” until the end.
NINE: Failure to check your personal biases at the door. Put tools and processes in place to add objectivity to what is mostly a subjective process. Use criteria and scoring at a level of detail necessary for your company to be able to defend your requirements, SOW, pricing, and selection.
TEN: Failure to invest the time and energy in negotiating an appropriate vendor agreement. Work with your preferred vendor to ensure everything is included to minimize the risk of add-ons/change orders. Iterate and negotiate as needed. Use the competing bids as leverage where appropriate (e.g., “We like you best but your price is X% higher than others…”). Include a detailed SOW and document SLAs.
If you’ve ever heard the old saying – “Good, Fast, Cheap – pick two” – you know the risk of trying to select a vendor quickly. You don’t want to end up with the wrong choice, and you don’t want to pay too much.
For a more complete discussion on a thorough yet efficient technology selection process, download Technology Selection at Today’s Speed.