Tech Selection Tips #12: Evaluate Proposals Critically

Reviewing proposals can serve as an illuminating first step as vendors try to address your use cases. But you'll want to give your team adequate time to read and evaluate, enabling your colleagues to pay particular attention to responses on user stories, architecture, and pricing — before undertaking their first downselect decision-making.

Proposals can be exciting to read — all that fantastic modern functionality! — but this task can also become a slog for the team, so you want to do it as efficiently as possible. First, recognize that reading will take time and make sure that selection team members receive a respite from their other duties as part of your overall schedule. A useful tip is to gather the team in a conference room for a day or two to read them together.

When everyone has finished reading, it can be useful for the team to gather over a happy hour or some other social venue to share their impressions informally. The goal here is not to make a formal decision (that comes next), but to share information and impressions in a relaxed, social setting — often helpful lubrication for the sometimes intense discussions to follow during the downselect meeting.

It's all about fit
Your downselect decisions should be driven by trade-offs among the different types of solution "fit" presented by each vendor.


There's a lot to accomplish here, so below find a longer-than-usual list!

  • Give evaluators "time off" from regular duties to read carefully, perhaps in an offsite location
  • Avoid overly complex scoring methodologies, which are typically quite unscientific
  • Adopt and modify as necessary a basic "SWOT" analysis to fit your organizational culture
  • Schedule sufficient time for a downselect meeting to consider all views
  • The most senior business stakeholder should chair the downselect meeting
  • Gather and collate written feedback in advance of the downselect meeting
  • Work to normalize and compare pricing in advance of the downselect meeting
  • Note, however, that all fees are negotiable and service costs in particular are at best a guesstimate at this stage
  • Make sure that all key stakeholders who evaluated the proposals are represented in the downselect session
  • Agree on a decision-making format in advance (e.g., consensus, voting, etc.)
  • Remember that you are not making the final selection decision, but merely filtering for the next round
  • Also remember that you have only seen words and pictures, and not yet (a more revealing) interactive demo
  • Use the downselect meeting to prepare a recommendation or justification statement to higher governance bodies
  • Gather questions for vendors who have advanced to the next stage to make sure they address them in their demos
  • Re-evaluate scenarios for the demo round: reduce the number and enhance the relevancy based on what you’ve learned

Next Steps

If you're selecting digital workplace or marketing/engagement technology, be sure to check out RSG's hard-hitting vendor evaluation research.


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