Product / Vendor Evaluation
You have a need for a new Software Solution, where you believe you can find a packaged solution. This packaged solution might be either a traditional software or Software as a Service (SaaS).
But how do you evaluate which one of the offerings is the right one for you? Each one of them lists in their marketing material how they:
- will solve all your business problems
- can be integrated with anything
- are based on industry standards
- ...and are customizable to all the different scenarios.
But you are not buying software solutions for the first time: You know that though that marketing material or that sales guy is not necessarily lying per se, they are not telling the whole truth either. You need to know which of the products really is the best fit for your needs and how much extra work is the customization part.
The solution is targeted to any company making a significant purchase decision, but either does not have the competency or the time to do a proper evaluation.
The evaluation process must always start from the requirements. Either you can formulate your requirements on your own or you should consider taking the Requirement Specification part of the Solution Design service from OPE AG.
After the requirements are clear, it makes sense to make a preliminary research of what is available in the market. These days much of this research can be done in the Internet, but if you are looking for an expensive system, it might make sense to call 2-3 industry leaders to come to present their solution. This research stage may bring up new ideas and solutions that make you think things differently and essentially change the Requirements you specified earlier.
After Initial Research, the next stage is the actual evaluation process.
If the choices are commonly known and in use (databases, platform infrastructure, components, strongly packaged SaaS offerings), they are probably readily available for immediate evaluation and proof-of-concept. In that case, it brings little added value to spend time in an official RFP process or to invite sales people to drink coffee. More cost-effective way is to simply take the most promising choices, try out in practice how they correspond to the requirements and calculate an approximate cost based on list prices (the final price-bargaining would happen with the chosen vendor only).
If however the price of the solution is expected to be high, solutions are such that setting up an evaluation environment is difficult and/or the solutions are more or less customized, it is best to start an official Request for Proposal (RFP) process. An RFP is written by OPE AG and together with the Requirement specification it is sent to potential vendors. It is then the responsibility of the vendors to inform to which extent they conform to the requirements and at what price. It is typical that based on the proposals some candidates are invited to present their solutions and to ask further questions.
In either case, if the investment is at all significant and if setting up a trial environment is possible, I would recommend a proof-of-concept of one or two candidates trying out the most important requirements in their product.
The deliverable of the process is an evaluation document of 5-20 pages listing for each evaluated candidates:
- Subjective Impression
- How the solution corresponds to requirements out-of-the-box
- Estimated cost to fulfill all the requirements
In addition, there is the recommendation of OPE AG: One single product or vendor.
The evaluation can be done in client name - this is usually easier - or anonymously. In either case, all the communications with the sales people can be directed to OPE AG to not burden the customer employees.
The time needed for evaluation is really dependent on three things:
- How many products should be evaluated?
- How complex are the products and requirements?
- How deep do you want to go?
A quick evaluation of a product is possible in one day / product, but if you were buying say an ERP, you would spend weeks, even months with each product (just an example, evaluating ERP products is not in the scope of OPE AG - I can recommend better providers for that).
Please contact me to get an idea of the costs involved in your particular case.
Last updated by Olli Perttilä on 29.5.2009