One of the most common pitfalls I see in technology selection projects is the absence of an organized team that represents the varied interests, expertise, and authority of enterprise (and customer) stakeholders. Without a recognized body, decisions tend to get made on an ad hoc basis. Worse, key conflicts get postponed throughout the early stages of the project, leading to fierce debates that emerge only after it’s time to pick vendor finalists. There's a better way...
Build a Team of Stakeholders
A smart business champion will identify key "stakeholder" groups: those who should participate in or will otherwise be significantly impacted by your selection effort. Some you will need to involve in the project directly as selection team members, while others will simply feed information into the process, while still others you just need to keep informed.
Note that key influencers among stakeholder groups may not always hold positions of importance in your organization — but they could prove essential to your success. There is a growing consensus that the most effective applications result from a truly user-centered design process, with key actors involved from the very beginning to shape of the ultimate solution. So for the selection team, be sure to include people who will want to get their hands dirty testing the new system.
Beware the One-Dimensional Team
I sometimes see a temptation among individual IT and Business departments to either dominate the selection process themselves or alternatively abdicate completely to the other party. You don’t want either path: both groups have a stake in the outcome and they need to work together for enterprise success. Also, if all key stakeholders participate in the selection of the solution, they will be much more likely to participate actively in “selling” it to the rest of the enterprise and engage fully for a successful implementation.
Example Team Compositions
So what might a selection team look like? It depends to some extent on the scope and nature of the solution getting procured. Let’s take two example technology selections:
- Cloud-based Marketing Automation
- On-premise HR Management System
For cloud-based Marketing Automation, the team might consist of:
- VP Marketing (Executive Sponsor)
- Director Digital Marketing (Team Chair)
- Manager, Outbound Marketing
- Manager, Customer Relationship Management
- Manager, Content Strategy & Personalization
- Manager, Marketing Analytics
- Marketing Business Analyst
- Lead MarTech Developer
- MarTech Project Manager (PM)
- Enterprise Architect
For the on-prem HR Management system, the composition might be different:
- VP HR (Executive Sponsor)
- Director, HR Operations (Team Chair)
- Manager, Employee Engagement
- Manager, Employee Benefits
- Manager, Recruitment
- Manager, Employee Professional Development
- Finance Department Liaison
- Enterprise Architect
- Lead HR Systems Developer
- HR Project Manager (PM)
- Manager, Systems Security
- Manager, Enterprise Data Warehousing
- Procurement Department Liaison
Your team's roles will vary, and in some cases the enterprise may seek wider participation from legal or financial groups. For smaller enterprises or smaller projects, smaller selection teams can suffice. The main point here is that people with different expertise and responsibilities should have input into the process, although a business leader ultimately drives the decision-making with significant IT input.
The other thing you’ll notice is that these teams are not “top-heavy,” and instead emphasize working-level knowledge. This leads to more practical outcomes — and is also more realistic since the selection methodologies RSG promotes prove very hands-on. Of course this presumes that team decision-making aligns properly with larger enterprise objectives. That in turn depends on governance, which I’ll tackle in a subsequent post.
Is There a Procurement Department?
Larger enterprises and most public-sector organizations may possess a specialized procurement department. It’s useful to involve this team and leverage their expertise and negotiating skills, but I urge you to retain project direction in the business unit leading the selection effort. In my experience, busy procurement groups are all too happy to let you run with the selection project — as long as you can demonstrate a methodical process.
And where can you find such methodical selection processes? Well, I encourage you to check out our vendor evaluation research streams, which each have specific advice for how to procure those tools. Even better, your enterprise can become an RSG subscriber — offering custom, one-on-one advice to digital leaders like you is why we exist...
Key Tips for Tech Buyers
- If you haven't already, recruit an executive-level Business Champion to sponsor the initiative going forward
- Involve key business stakeholders earlier rather than later, with multiple departments actively involved
- Create a representative selection team that reports to a Program Champion via a Program Chair with a separate Project Manager to deal with logistics and planning
- Procurement Departments can bring useful project management, bidder communications, and negotiating experience to the table, which you should leverage, while retaining business leadership over the overall selection process
- Make sure that the interests of your customers, employees, partners, or other stakeholders are adequately represented
- Don’t make the team too "top-heavy" with senior leadership who may not have the time nor specialized expertise to participate effectively
Other Posts in This Series
- Tip #1: Articulate a Solid Business Case
- Tip #2: Build the Right Team
- Tip #3: Setting the Right Business Foundations
- Tip #4: Capture Requirements That Don't Suck
- Tip #5: User Stories Are Everything
- Tip #6: Ask Questions That Really Matter
- Tip #7: Find More Than the Usual Suspects
- Tip #8: Target the Right Suppliers
- Tip #9: How to Engage Vendors
- Tip #10: Create RFPs That Actually Work