Selection Tips #14: Run Competitive Bake-Offs

  • 21-Sep-2017

This is concurrently the most resource-intensive phase, as well as the most important and revealing step, in your technology selection process.  Don't short-change yourself here.

What is a "Bake-Off"?

Sometimes called a proof of concept (PoC), a bake-off is when you put a technology (and vendor) through some very practical, hands-on tests. You ask the two vendor finalists to mimic a real implementation sprint, and then show you how to get hands-on with at least some parts of their proposed solution.

The key is that it's totally customized to your requirements. In this bake-off, you’ll use your ingredients (content and data), your bakers (participating employees), and your ovens (your real environments)—although typically you'll employ the vendor’s kitchen (a.k.a., cloud environment).

Which Pie is Better?
Always hold a bake-off.

Like all good things, a useful bake-off takes time and attention, since the mechanics can get tricky. But the payoff is worth it:

  • By engaging end-users in the selection process in a way that feels relevant and useful to them, via hands-on testing, it bodes well for their support during tough implementation times
  • Testing your own requirements against reality enables you to reprioritize your objectives midstream, before you’re locked into a particular supplier
  • This sort of prototyping allows you to jump-start your initial implementation and reduce the time from contract to value
  • By learning (most of) the shortcomings of the winning vendor, you can plan around them
  • You get a better sense for realistic implementation costs before you select a solution, and you also gain some valuable time and space to negotiate the best deal.

 Bake-Off Tips

  • Bake-offs require careful planning and project management
  • Identify and flesh out key scenarios for the vendor to implement
  • Set your team’s expectations in a planning meeting about how “polished” the vendor’s work is likely to be
  • You may need to reimburse bidders for their time, but at a cut rate—negotiate here
  • The ideal bake-off is one to two weeks long, but may be extended for mission-critical or performance-intensive applications, or shortened for simpler technologies
  • Schedule daily “check-ins” with the vendor
  • Schedule early bake-off trainings with your full team; you want to get hands-on with the technology
  • Use this time to negotiate pricing and terms while still in a competitive environment
  • If there’s something you don’t like about a vendor or technology, it’s likely to only get worse over time, so address it explicitly

If RSG can advise you on making the right selection, leveraging research-based vendor evaluations, don't hesitate to get in touch.

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