Technology can be the single greatest leverage device when your company is trying to stay lean and mean.
A good example of someone who recently needed to make a vendor choice is a business owner who was looking for a system to assist him in preparing estimates. In his line of work, estimates are used to structure project bids.
His method relied on a single employee who prepared estimates based on his own personal experience. This employee had usually proved to be accurate enough to allow the owner to make a profit. But, the owner recently determined that he had to take some action to be able to be more competitive. And, of course, he was worried that this talent would eventually leave.
The system solution he pursued was a software based estimator. (They are readily available for practically every industry.) With so many possibilities, how did he make his choice, and what can you learn from the process he followed?
- He had a profitable business for 20 + years so he understood what goes into delivering the service/product.
- The owner had several acquaintances and friends in the same of nearly the same kind of business.
- One of his trusted friends had been using a particular vendor’s product for the same purpose.
- The owner’s business technology was simple but up-to-date.
The solution (?):
- He purchased the same software his friend used.
- The software was installed by his infrastructure support group.
- To configure the product, he relied on his friend’s tips and his own knowledge and instincts.
- He compared estimates the new system produced against completed jobs only to find out that the software’s figures were nowhere near reality.
- Several tweaks and many calls to the vendor were made with no improvement in results.
- The $10,000 software now sits on a shelf.
Which brings us back to our original question – How does a SMB owner know which vendor is really the best choice? And, it well illustrates how costly bad decisions can be.
As a SMB owner, you have two possible courses of action:
First course of action:
- Research to find the most likely vendors for the solutions you need.
- Evaluate the likely candidates according to a methodology from a company such as TEC Software Solutions at: http://rfp.technologyevaluation.com/store.asp.
- Develop your own methodology based on the assistance provided by someone like The Software Evaluation Center at: http://www.software-evaluation.co.uk/.
- Develop your own simplistic, plus/minus/interesting table correlating:
- your actual business needs;
- your business culture;
- your existing business processes that involve this new system;
- your existing technology environment, and
- your future plans.
You will then evaluate each product as to how well it meets your actual business needs, how it will work within your business culture and so on down the list.
Along the way, be ready to decipher the jargon when you come across terms you do not know and, of course, negotiate the best deal you can get with the vendor that has the best solution.
The second course of action is to:
- Contract with someone that has years of business and technology experience to do it for you.
This is where Cameo Technology Management can help you. As your business partner, we will:
- Develop the needs/requirements checklist based on you and your company.
- In some cases, issue Request for Proposals (RFP’s).
- Find vendors that are likely to be able to meet those needs, or select likely solutions from the RFP responses.
- Evaluate the alternatives to find a “short list.”
- Determine benefits and risks associated with each remaining solution.
- Incorporate any risk mitigation required for success into the evaluation.
- Evaluate the ease of integration with your existing business technology and processes.
- Determine any necessary technology, business process or HR changes.
- Present you with the best fit for your company.
- Help you negotiate with the vendor.
- Ensure a successful integration.
Cameo Technology has saved their clients tens of thousands of dollars by helping them make the best technology decisions for their companies.