3 Strategies for Evaluating Solution Providers

Technology is a huge part of our world today. We rely on it daily at home and at work. Selecting the right tools is no easy task. It’s also a huge expense, so it’s crucial to take the time to properly evaluate solution providers to find those that will best fit your needs. We’ve all been a part of demonstrations that missed the mark or seemed completely different than what you were expecting. By implementing a few strategies, you can prevent wasting time and money on products and services that won’t meet your needs and get closer to finding the right solution for your firm.

Understand your why

Your initial questions should be pointed not at potential solution providers, but rather at your internal stakeholders. Why are you looking for a different solution? What do you need to be able to do what you currently can’t?

To answer these questions, put together a cross-functional team to lead the evaluation initiative. This team should have all areas and levels of the firm represented and include experienced primary users with deep knowledge of how the software will be used.

One of this team’s initial tasks should be making a list of all the features you want this solution to have. Have discussions with users to learn more about what could improve their workflow and productivity. Start by brainstorming all possibilities, then prioritize those features by ranking them in terms of what is really essential.

  1. Critical – If these elements are not included, the solution is unacceptable.

  2. Desirable – If added to existing functionality, these features would enhance or improve the firm’s processes.

  3. Nice to have – If available without significant additional cost, these features could impact the final selection.

Ask Better Questions

Some firms create a list of features and then send it out to potential solution providers as an RFP. This may seem like a rational approach, but it typically results in a less than thorough evaluation. It may take more time, but you’ll get better results when you take the time to have in-depth conversations with the soon-to-be partners you are reviewing.

Certainly provide a list of your requirements before meeting with potential solution providers to ensure the conversation or demonstration is focused on providing a solution to your needs, but remember that presentations and demonstrations are designed to sell a product. They may be telling you only what their product does best.

Get beyond the sales pitch by asking questions. Ask the solution provider to tell you stories of how they’ve helped other firms increase productivity, shorten throughput time, or improve other metrics that are important to your firm. During demonstrations, ask the representative to perform tasks with the software that aren’t a part of their planned demonstration. This will give you a better idea of how user-friendly the technology is.

The prospective solution provider’s team should not just be working to make the sale. They should be acting as an educator, adviser, and coach. They should be interested in understanding your firm and as concerned with identifying what is not a fit as they are about convincing your what is. They should be working hard to avoid buyer’s remorse, not just closing a sale.

These conversations will help you get an early start on creating relationships with your solution providers. When you need help, have a question or would like to learn how to use the product better, those are the people you will turn to.

Seek input from your peer community

Reach out to your community or peer group to find out who is using the software now. Don’t just ask current users if they like the software or if it works. Here are a few ideas for questions that dig deeper.

  • If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?

  • Did implementation occur on time and within budget?

  • Were there any surprises?

  • Were you satisfied with training received?

  • Are you happy with post-implementation support?

  • Is your firm using all the features? Why or why not?

  • What are the best features?

  • What does your firm need that the software doesn’t do?

Over the years we’ve worked with quite a few companies as they were evaluating solution providers. The most successful companies approach the selection process with a clear understanding of their goals and view their technology vendors as partners. They focus on tangible results and improving KPIs rather than a list of features they think they’ll need.

Selecting the right solution provider is hard, and it takes time to do it right. But the right solution provider will grow alongside your firm. Keep an open mind and focus on the results of a tool instead of a laundry list of features and you’ll be able to find solutions that are the best match for your firm.

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As a Solutions Advisor for Boomer Consulting,