Organizations, of all sizes, are faced with an increasingly complex and growing landscape of technologies to choose from.
Today’s industry-leading marketing and customer experience management solutions offer far more functionality than ever before. This expanded breadth of capabilities, along with the need for many of the tools in place to work (integrate) with other applications, increases both the value and complexity, of the solution set to the organization. This can make the selection process exponentially more complicated, depending on what you are looking for. Difficult, but not impossible.
So while we would recommend engaging an advisor with technology and agency selection experience and expertise, such as, oh, I don’t know, The Content Advisory … if you are determined to DIY-it, then here are a few tips that can help make the selection process a successful one.
Just like Scouting, preparedness is the single most important step in the selection process. This will ensure that the technology you choose is based on your needs, vision, and capabilities, not the brightest-shiniest-feature-rich vendor demonstration. Your choice of technology selection should be based on:
- Business objectives for the tasks the technology will take on. For instance, if the technology in question is a CMS (content management system) then you will need to know your content, communications, and knowledge management needs, both current and future.
- Defined processes and established best practices. Staying with the CMS example, this would include things like information architecture, metadata, and workflow.
- Known, and expected integration points.
- Stakeholder needs. And not just the usual suspects – look beyond the actual users of the platform and the technology team to include participation from across your organization, including R&D, marketing, finance and IT.
Preparedness is one thing, but knowing the limitations and guidelines in which you need to make your technology selections are equally, if not more, important. Understand that the following details and I mean really UNDERSTAND, that your choice of technology will be influenced by:
- Available resources. Things like budget (for licensing, implementation costs, hardware, etc.), human (procurement process team, implementation team, outside support, etc.), and technical (team, hardware, hosting, etc.) all have to be accounted for before you start looking at solutions.
- Your organization’s procurement rules. In my experience, this can be one of the biggest hurdles. Procurement processes tend to lag behind the transformation that has happened in the martech world. Understanding your organization\’s rules and requirements, and working with the procurement team ahead of time to find middle ground where it needs to be found can save lots of time, money, and aggravation in the long run.
- Your existing technology stack. Take a look at what you have, and then decide what will be replaced (if anything), and where the interpretations need to happen – even if they aren’t there today. Speak with your technology team to understand what kind of installation (on-premise, hosted, SaaS, PaaS) is preferred/allowed, and if there are limitations to the type of technology (Java, PHP, .NET, etc.) that can be supported.
Ask and Listen
As part of the procurement process make sure the lines of communication with your short-listed vendors (max 3) and implementation partners are wide open. Don’t shy away from sharing information that could help them be more responsive to your eventual request for proposal (RPF).
- Interact with your potential partners – often. Provide them actual and foreseeable/desired scenarios in which the new technology will in play, and then ask them how they would meet those requirements. And don’t be to restrictive or prescriptive; give them an opportunity to show you they understand what you are looking to do and their competency to help you. They may have a better way of dealing with the challenge – let them share that experience-based knowledge.
- You may be attracted by a tool because of the claimed functionality or that it can be implemented quicker than you can create the content it will support. Those are all fine and well, but when will you be ready, and how often are you going to use those bells and whistles. Keep an eye on how the technology can support your vision for the future, but focus on how it will address current challenges and limitations.
- When it is time to send out that RFP – the KISS rule applies. The shorter and more focussed your RFP, the easier it will be to assess responses.
Now it is time to make a choice.
- Invite the vendors with the highest scores to come in and demonstrate their product against these scenarios. Invite any implementation partners too.
- Rank, not rate, how each vendor and/or implementation partner responded to each scenario – both written and during the onsite sessions. Have all your stakeholders rank each scenario response and demo, and then look at the results from different perspectives.
- Focus on the content and context of the written response, as well as how well the scenario demonstrations went. After the ranking is done, debrief with the core selection team to come to a consensus on which vendor and implementation partner will be engaged to move into contract discussions and a proof of concept (POC).**
** NOTE: If the team cannot come to a consensus on one vendor, go back and ask more questions, get another short demo to clarify anything that is standing in the way of making a decision. Only one vendor should be engaged to move to the next stage. Bake–offs are not the same as POCs, and aren’t a productive use of anyone\’s time.
Decision made – Now what?
Congratulations! You have made your choice of preferred technology vendor, and maybe, implementation partner as well. Next steps:
- Talk to client references, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Think about where you have had challenges in the past in similar implementations, and ask questions about mitigating that risk.
- It is all about building a mutually-respective and beneficial partnership. Negotiate a license based on what you need now, but make sure to do so with the outlook of building a good relationship with your supplier from the start. You have to be a good partner to get a good partner.
- Run a short (paid) pilot project or POC that covers one thing you do well currently and one that you struggle with.
- Take the time, in the beginning, to blueprint and plan out the project.
Now if all that seems like a lot, we can help. We regularly work with user organizations that are designing and implementing customer experience and content-centric business solutions as part of our core service offerings. Technology and service provider selections are the main part of our business, not something we do on the side. And we can help by running the selection from requirements gathering through to contract support, or provide some support and guidance along the way.
A technology selection or assessment on your horizon …. contact us to find out how we can help you find the right technology and/or implementation partner.