There are a number of tools available to you to help you independently assess a vendor. In addition to the evaluation criteria and process you plan to use in your RFP package, here are some further considerations, methods and resources for learning as much possible about a preferred or shortlisted vendor:
Evaluating Vendor’s Proposed Technology
- Software Product Roadmap: What is the vendor’s governance model for ongoing product development? Can the vendor provide a formalized, document Software Roadmap for your review
- Multiple Product Lines: Some vendors have adopted a high-growth strategy of acquiring other companies or smaller competitors as a means of expanding their client base. Ask the vendor how many different/similar products they are carrying and supporting. Ask if the company has formal Product Managers (request resumes – you may be surprised!) who oversee the planning, prioritization of product enhancements, forecasting and production of the software application. Supporting multiple software code streams, each with multiple versions in maintenance mode, requires separate streams of product management, development, QA and support resources. This can be expensive to maintain, cause resources to be distracted or spread thin, and contribute to a lack of focus on the core product. Ask if the vendor’s exclusive focus is on their flagship product.
- SOA Compliance / Software Interoperability: A published standard in your RFP against which software can be judged to be interoperable and “Services Oriented Architecture” (SOA) compatible will be of value to your organization. Define software requirements that will provide full integration with other third-party products/functions to enable the interchange of information and system compatibility across all in-scope business processes, thus providing your organization with full ownership of your data. Meeting this standard will also limit software integration and ongoing re-integration costs.
Evaluating Vendor Culture Fit and Staff Qualifications
- Annual Staff Turnover Rates: The worldwide average for annual staff turnover in the software industry is in excess of 15 per cent. Obviously, having a stable workforce means a vendor can plan for and deliver projects more predictably and with greater efficiency without having to deal with significant project team churn or delay. Some vendors experience high rates of annual staff turnover. Ask for confirmation of the vendor’s employee turnover rate and request that an executive of the company sign off on this information. Can the software vendor commit to having trained and competent resources dedicated to your project? Does the vendor offer a project team succession strategy that meets your needs and expectations?
- Company Reviews by Former Staff Members: At the well-known global Glassdoor website, former staff members of companies are free to comment on such aspects as company leadership, working conditions, salaries, company performance, and staff satisfaction.
- Use of Recognized Standards, Professional Memberships and Affiliations:
Does your organization and the vendor share common ground in your respective use of recognized standards and/or professional memberships, certifications and affiliations? Examples of this might include use of:o Well-respected IT benchmarks such as ISO standards or Project Management Institute (PMI)
o Affiliations in business networks/certifications programs such as Microsoft, Oracle and ESRI
o Best-practice standards associated with industry-wide organizations such as American Planning Association (APA) and International Code Council (ICC).
- In-house Regulatory SMEs, Value-Added Expertise: Does the vendor employ any relevant industry Subject Matter Experts (e.g., former Planners, Plans Checkers, Building Officials, Permit Technicians, Inspectors, or Enforcement Officers, etc.) who can be leveraged into the Business Analysis or Change Management aspects of the project? It helps to have vendor project staff who have obvious industry credibility and who are already up-to-speed on your business processes and needs. Do those in-house SMEs offer industry credentials and a broader, more enhanced perspective?