Thursday, 6 September 2012

Vendor Selection

As you've seen in one of our previous blogs, "A Tangled Web", we're working with quite a few vendors.  Understandably, some are great, some not so great.  At the time, we made the most informed decision we could.  But, as always, there are still lessons to be learned.  And here are the lessons we learned, which will guide us for future selection of vendors:

  • Vet the vendor completely - this may seem obvious, but just meeting them and seeing a quick demo of their product is not vetting them completely.  The vendor will, of course, put their best foot forward - which can be deceiving.  Ask to spend time with their product, and this could mean 1 week's access to their product so you can really go through it.  The things we would have found if we had done that!
  • Don't base decisions on the numbers of clients they already have.  It’s easy to do that, when we hear ‘a large client base’, we automatically think “All the clients can’t be idiots. The vendor couldn’t have built such a client base without a great product!”  Yeah, we wish that were true.  For example, one of our vendors has over 1000+ clients for the product we got from them.  But when we started using it we found numerous errors in their product, and not ‘us-being-picky’ errors.  They were just plain ridiculous and unacceptable errors like spelling mistakes!  We went back to them and they agreed to fix it.  They're still apparently fixing the errors (over 1.5 months into us bringing it up).  Now we're stuck with a not so good product that we've paid for.
  • Include a clause that reprimands the vendor if they do not deliver on time and/or don't deliver a quality product. 
    • Time: Not delivering on time is pretty easy to gauge.  You put a deadline on the contract and they either meet it or they don't.
    • Quality: Delivering a quality product is a bit more difficult with different parties having different opinions.  So you should spell out what you mean by quality. For example, for a content creation company, quality could include grammatically correct voice over and written text.   Seems basic, but go basic!  That’s where the quality issues really matter.  Be as specific and concise about what lack of quality means.