There are two prerequisites for success in this critical phase of system procurement: know beforehand in as much detail as is relevant what the Vendor is to be asked to provide; and define, also beforehand, the criteria as to how the selection will be made.
The circumstances of each procurement will determine the specifics of how this process actually takes place. It is important to bear in mind that this phase can demand significant time and effort from those involved in making the selection.
An Accelerated approach to Vendor Selection can sometimes be appropriate when it is clear that there are requirements for critical functionality that a selected Vendor must be able to provide. Therefore, potential Vendors can be pre-qualified (or disqualified) by presenting these critical requirements.
Whether or not the Accelerated approach is used there invariably comes a stage in the selection process where significant detailed information about functional needs to be presented to potential Vendors. This information may, but not always, be packaged as a formal Request for Proposal (RFP). Preparation of this detail - frequently a substantial task - yields multiple benefits all at once:
a potential Vendor can use (and should be asked to use) the information provided to assess objectively whether, and to what extent, the Vendor can supply what is being asked for
while the relative priorities of the functional needs will typically not be identified to potential Vendors these needs can be easily used to create a script for pre-qualified Vendors to use should they agree to present a demonstration of their product
Regarding Software Demonstrations, which are a large topic by themselves, the most important component is that the Vendor be provided with a detailed script to guide the performance of the demonstration. This script accomplishes two vital goals: all demonstrations will be conducted in a manner in which like can be compared against like, and the Vendor is prevented from taking control of the demonstration. Participants/reviewers in the demonstration sessions will be provided with score sheets to record quantitative assessments and comments.
It typically, but not always, happens that more than one Vendor will meet the base criteria for being selected. There then begins the process of performing due diligence on each of these, to confirm the Vendor's reputation, financial stability and appropriate use of technology. Final selection is a significant decision, not simply because of the need to have confidence in these regards, but because selecting a Vendor necessarily implies a long term relationship: once the decision is made and the Vendor's software has been installed and is in operation, switching to another Vendor will be an undertaking that will be very unpopular on every level. It is therefore essential to have a very high level of comfort in both the Vendor's commitment to the industry and the fundamental architecture and design of the software.
Kilcreggan Systems & Software, Inc. P.O. Box 273 Shelburne Falls, MA 01370 (617) 694-8125 firstname.lastname@example.org