Setting Vendor Expectations for Service

Identifying a software provider that is invested in your success beyond the sale

It’s frankly perplexing that with a procurement process as robust as the standard RFP Process for government clients seeking enterprise partners, that the final result is so often a mismatch between client and vendor. However, as a cogent study of ERP project success factors reveals, a key contributor to this issue is the inherent bias of an RFP process that skews more favourably to quantitative scoring of product feature matrices as opposed to the more qualitatively measured—but no less critical—project success factors of implementation methodology, service delivery capabilities, and product lifecycle optimization.

The good news is there is a better way to evaluate your potential implementation partner by focusing your investigation beyond product fit predominantly to include a handful of core company indicators:

  1. Set a goal for 100% referenceability and project success and do not deviate from this objective.
  2. Evaluate the vendor’s R&D infrastructure and product roadmap to ascertain longterm partner stability.
  3. Quantify your potential government software platform as a truly integrated solution.
  4. Consider your software vendor’s partnership qualities and their fit with your culture.
  5. Examine & verify your partner’s service commitment, setting the highest standards possible.

Focusing your software implementation evaluation too narrowly on product suite ‘features and fit’ can result in overlooking the more crucial attributes of project acumen, service ethos, and support capabilities, that will ultimately define your vendor partnership and, as a result, the success of your project in meeting and exceeding your business goals.

With this in mind, let’s commence our ‘5 Steps’ countdown to drill down in detail on the crucial steps you must take to ensure you have a legitimate ally in this enterprise with a verifiable track record.

5. Verify your vendor’s service commitment setting the highest standards possible

At their core, enterprise IT projects are exercises in multi-variable problem solving with those who do it well recognized by their ability to think on their feet and stay committed to final project success despite the challenges and obstacles that will inevitably arise.

For this reason, it is imperative that you are rigorous in your investigation of your prospective software vendor’s partnership qualities and team culture, as best quantified by their relationships with current and past customers. You want the best, or at the very least, the best within your budget. With that in mind, here’s the types of questions you should be asking of a potential vendor in seeking these key partnership abilities:

  • Do ALL projects consistently meet or exceed business requirements?
  • Are ALL clients satisfied with project outcomes? Would they endorse the implementation vendor directly?
  • Are there abundant examples of happy customers providing referrals?
  • Can they provide a complete contact list of past clients? If no, why?
  • Can you contact clients not on the provided reference list? If no, this should raise red flags.

While this latter point may seem harsh or invasive, it’s important to emphasize that vendors that are truly excelling with their client services approach will not balk at this request, but rather will heartily invite your frank discussions with their satisfied customers. Good vendors produce a trail of happy and loyal customers.

Conversely, ‘vendors’ who are not wholly invested in your project’s success past the sale and initial implementation are revealed via the following traits:

  • Provided reference lists are limited or sanitized
  • Few examples verified of clients confirming ALL project requirements met
  • Few examples verified of clients providing direct referrals
  • Client reviews and ratings on sector specific website are not overwhelmingly positive, or if they are, often appear superficial without a nuanced project perspective
  • Third party corporate culture and employee retention rankings such as GlassDoor indicate low levels

The service commitment of your chosen vendor and their willingness to fully integrate within your teams’ culture is a mission critical factor in determining the success of your government IT project. For that reason, taking shortcuts in this area of your evaluation or worse, failing to set the highest standards for service commitment in your selection criterion is the single biggest error you can make in finding your perfect vendor.

Remember, only a few can do this well. For that reason, you must set and maintain the highest standard for performance to ensure you separate the many that do not excel in their service delivery model. It’s one thing to build an excellent product. You’re also looking for those rare vendors who can work with you as a true consultative partner with a service ethos that can sustain over the many years demanded of core governance infrastructure.

Next week, we’ll continue our ongoing series on How to Deploy a Digital Government Platform by showing you how to ‘Consider your software vendor’s partnership qualities and their fit with your culture.’