Tech Select Series: Evaluating Vendor Proposals

Welcome to the latest post in RSG's "Real Story Vendor Procurement" (RSVP) best practice series.

Last time I reviewed the mechanics of answering bidder questions. In this segment, let's talk about evaluating vendor proposals. Reading through all the long documents can feel like a slog, but it's an important part of the process. For larger, more complex projects, necessarily you're going to be getting some longer proposal documents back in return, and you'll need time to review those carefully.

We often recommend that you have your team members go off site, maybe work from home or block off time for a couple of days to focus on reviewing the proposals.

Team Member Advice

Don't read passively; instead read critically. If you have a printout for example, have a red pen and mark it up as you go along, or if you're reading on the screen, then mark up the document digitally as you go along. Either way, have your evaluation template open so you can write up strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.

Three things you're going to want to pay special attention to: 

  • Responses to your scenarios: Were they complete? Did they seem plausible? 
  • Core architecture that the vendor's proposing. Is it understandable? Is it complete? Is it sensible? 
  • Pricing in the budget estimate matches the technology that they're proposing on the functional side.

Sometimes vendors will propose in the details of the narrative all kinds of interesting capabilities that actually come from optional modules or other products that they haven't actually bid. This is called sandbagging, and you want to keep a special eye out for that.

One of the most important things you want to evaluate is, how well the bidder understands what you're trying to do? How familiar are they with your circumstances and your needs? Is this something that they're going to be able to do readily or is your project kind of a first in its kind for them? 

Evaluating Vendor Proposals

Final Thoughts

  • The proposal stage is a learning exercise for you. You may not have understood your requirements as well as you thought, and now you're getting proposals back that will teach you a little bit more about what it is that you really need. This is an adaptive process, so use this opportunity to make changes to your use cases for the demo round.
  • Remember, you're not actually picking the winning vendor at this phase, you're just selecting for the next step, the demo phase.

At this point, it's just a proposal. In the demo round is when you'll see the software live in action.  I'll have more to say about that in a subsequent post...

Next Steps

In RSG's evaluation research we dig into which vendors address certain standard scenarios better than others. While not always by vendor design, some products will fit better — or worse — for different use cases. No single product will fit every scenario; in fact, most tools excel at only one or two primary 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 segment in our selection series covers How to Conduct Vendor Demos. Stay tuned...

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 (coming next week)
  • Filter to Final Lists (coming later)
  • Run of Competitive Proof of Concepts (coming later)

Make the Right Choice

  • Pilot Solution (coming later)
  • Negotiating Pricing and Contracts (coming later)

What's Next

  • Implementation (coming later)

Other Customer Relationship Management posts

The Real Story on SugarCRM

It becomes as less suitable platform, at least on its own, if you need advanced capabilities in specific areas