Are you looking to solve a problem through technology?
When shopping for IT solutions, the first step is to figure out what functionality you really need. Having identified the problem, it is often helpful to talk through solutions with colleagues in your own and other organizations. Talking to vendors also can be helpful—they have expertise worth tapping. Just be clear about the “discovery” phase versus the shopping phase.
When you have a clear idea of what you need and have identified vendors that might offer the solution, here are seven things to think about: full cost, ease of implementation, user accessibility, security, flexibility, scalability, and support.
- Full cost: Understand how the solution is priced. Don’t ask, “What’s the cost?” but “What’s the total cost? What comes standard and what is extra?” Don’t get surprised by hidden costs.
- Implementation: How long will it take to implement? What will it require of your internal IT department? What will it require of your staff? Of other users? What is the average ramp-up time to get it working properly?
- User accessibility: How easy is it to access, and how intuitive is it to use? What kind of training is necessary? Who will handle that? Depending on the problem you are solving, “users” may extend beyond your staff. If it involves vendor adoption, is it readily accessible and easy to use? Consider accessibility and usability from all user vantage points. These are critical questions because any kind of obstacle could hinder adoption, defeating the purpose, or trade a processing problem for an administrative problem.
- Security: How secure is it? How does it interface with your ERP or other data systems? How does it protect against data breaches? Does it encrypt sensitive information?
- Flexibility: How flexible is the solution? How flexible is the provider in “flexing” the solution? How available and responsive is the provider? From a service standpoint, you want vendor availability and responsiveness. From a solution standpoint, over time things change. You may need to fine-tune things or add services or capability. There are two aspects to the question of flexibility: the solution and the solution provider. How flexible is the solution? And how willing and available is the provider to make changes?
- Scalability: As you grow and change, can the solution handle it? Does it scale organically, or does it require additions or upgrades? You want a solution that can handle user and volume increases, period. That is what scalability means.
- Support: What kind of support can you expect from the provider? How responsive are they? Do they act as a vendor or as a business partner helping you reach your goals? How do you know this ahead of time? Start with reputation. Confirm through reference checking. Ask for references. Then call the references. It’s not enough to have their names. You have to talk with them—several, not just one. You’ll find out which vendors are responsive and good to work with, and which are not.
Taking time to explore each of these issues with potential vendors will steer you to finding the best solution and provider to meet your needs now and over time.
And if you are looking for help with vendor onboarding and compliance, or with vendor self-service inquiries, contact us.