If you've been following the previous tips in this series you've established a business case for new or replacement technology and have gleaned a decent understanding of your requirements (documented primarily in user stories). Now you can begin to explore the broader solutions marketplace.
You'll want to carefully research just which type of technology will satisfy your needs, and what would constitute the broad set ("long list") of plausible suppliers. For information and research, be sure to cast a wide net and not rely on a single source of advice. Along the way, you may discover key bidders who weren’t among your initial list of “usual suspects.”
Also, you need to consider whether you should target software vendors ("ISVs") or services firms (systems integrators, consultancies, or agencies) in your solicitation. It might make sense to issue two separate solicitations in sequence or a "combination" RFP that evaluates both the ISV and services partners together.
Where to Get Good Information and Advice
Even in an era of unprecedented information sharing via social media, you will see extraordinary misinformation in the wild, and much of what passes for education comes from vendors themselves. That’s not good. You will want to cast a wide (but critical) net and contrast various sources of advice.
Let’s take a critical tour of possible information resources and their biases:
- Traditional analyst firms can identify major players, but suffer severe conflicts of interest, geographic blinders, and often dismiss open source and niche solutions
- Consultancies can offer practical advice based on experience, but may not have a broad sense for the marketplaces, and integrators will tend to steer clients to favored tools
- Industry associations provide useful meeting grounds but tend to cater to the needs of vendors who are their major underwriters
- Vendor user groups can provide extraordinarily useful information and contacts, but typically it’s just about a single vendor or product
- Peer groups can offer excellent intelligence about relevant vendors and approaches, but you may not want to copycat industry competitors
- Crowdsourced review sites offer useful anecdotes but tend to provide unduly generous reviews and lack evaluation structures for rigorous analysis
- Vendors obviously offer a lot of information, most usefully actual product demos, where you can see tools in action, but are obviously biased
- Explore whether your enterprise already owns the technology that could meet your needs, but never default to the incumbent supplier
- Take a long look at any software category before committing to it, and consider other "adjacent" technology segments that might also meet your needs
- Obtain advice from a variety of sources, but understand the limitations and biases of each
- Get clear about the ecosystem around any technology segment, and begin to plot out where and how you will obtain implementation and other services support
- An ideal approach has you selecting the software first, then the services partner, but both through a competitive process
- Avoid “consultingware” and look for true software suppliers in order to maximize your chances for long-term success
Contact us to find out how RSG's hard-hitting research and advisory/consulting services can help you make the right choices going forward.
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