Welcome to the latest entry in RSG's "Real Story Vendor Procurement" (RSVP) best practice series. Last time I covered conducting vendor demos. In this segment, we're going to talk about filtering from multiple vendor bidders down to just two finalists.
By this point, you've run the demos, you've received pricing and sample contracts, and ideally, you've begun at least some preliminary negotiations. Your next step is to filter from several vendors to just two bidders for your bake-off phase.
Why Two Vendors?
Some people ask why does it have to be two? Can't we go forward with just one vendor in the bake-off phase?
That's not ideal, for a couple reasons:
- If you go with just one vendor for the bake-oiff phase, there's nothing to compare it with, so it's hard to know if you're really getting the best fit.
- Since it's not a competitive environment, the vendor's not going to negotiate as effectively as you'd like. But also, it changes the frame of reference to how can we make this work, rather than, is this the right partner?
Why Not Three Vendors?
By the same token, sometimes people ask, why not three vendors? You could go forward with three vendors for the bake-off phase, but as we'll see in the next segment that phase really takes a lot of work; testing three potential bidders can be quite involved and engenders more schedule risk, so ideally you just work with two.
How to Filter
Take the time to make sure you have all the information you need. Ask yourself:
- Did we really get all of the information that we need?
- Have the vendors gotten back to us with questions we raised during demos?
- Do we have other questions that we think are very important and potentially might affect our decision?
Making Your Choice
Finally, we recommend following a qualitative process for the actual down-select. This process should emphasize SWOT analysis, or Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT for both the vendor itself as well as the technology they're proposing. We recommend every individual on your selection team goes through this SWOT analysis for both the bidder and the solution.
Then go back to your original business objectives and rank (not rate) the vendors against each. This will help you identify which two seem most promising.
Qualitative versus Quantitative Approach
Sometimes customers will ask us; why are you taking a qualitative approach? Shouldn't we take a quantitative approach and get an exact measurement on this and use that as a way to down-select? We recommend not taking a quantitative approach for a couple of reasons:
It can be almost impossible to get the weightings right, especially how you weight different people's opinion.
For example: on technical issues, the weight of an architect would be more important than that of a businessperson. For usability questions, the weighting of a businessperson would be heavier than that of a technical person. Ultimately, the weightings become impossible.
A quantitative approach doesn't really address prohibitive problems.
For example: if you know a particular vendor isn't going to pass the security test, that's a fundamental issue, a prohibitive problem. Likewise, if the director of marketing says there's no way she can understand the user interface she'd have to employ each day, then obviously that's a nonstarter too.
We recommend taking a qualitative approach via a carefully facilitated meeting where all the subject matter experts can weigh in with a full vetting of pros and cons — and then ranking against the business objectives in your RFP. This takes effective leadership, but in the end, it gets you to the best decision in the most transparent way.
In RSG's evaluation research we dig into which vendors address certain scenarios better than others. While not always by vendor design, some products will fit better — or worse — for different use cases.
If you work for a large, or global, or complex enterprise, RSG's vendor evaluations are designed to address the specialized strategic considerations you face.
See for yourself by perusing a complimentary sample.
The next edition of the RSVP selection series will cover the Bake-off phase. See you next week...
Other Posts in the RSVP Selection Series
Establish Business Foundations
Identify Needs and Opportunities:
Conduct Market Analysis:
Communicate with Suppliers:
Try Before You Buy:
- Conducting Demos
- Filter to Final Lists (you are here)
- Run of Competitive Bake-offs (coming next week)
Make the Right Choice
- Pilot Solution (coming later)
- Negotiating Pricing and Contracts (coming later)
- Implementation (coming later)