Technology vendors are key components to running an efficient business — but selecting the right technology partners is a job in and of itself. These are critical decisions with far-reaching implications.
However, these partnerships provide your association with important tools that not only drive innovation but also keep your organization nimble.
So, to ensure you gain and retain viable, long-term partnerships, you must follow a rigorous vetting process. Let’s explore nine strategies to help you make informed decisions and forge successful tech vendor partnerships.
1. Define Your Requirements and Objectives
Before diving into the vendor selection process, clearly outline your organization’s needs and objectives.
Establish a comprehensive understanding of the features and functions you need, as well as any specific challenges your association wants to address. This is a foundational step that sets you up for success!
A document stating your goals and needs serves as a guide throughout the vetting process. This core information aligns you with potential vendors that can accommodate your unique requirements.
2. Research Vendor Reputation
Another crucial step in the vendor-vetting process is researching their reputation.
Explore online reviews, testimonials and case studies to gain insight into their track record. How they treat other clients is a good indication of how they’ll treat you.
Pay particular attention to these two aspects:
- How well the vendor has addressed specific challenges, preferably ones related to yours
- Whether their solutions have consistently met (or ideally, exceeded) client expectations
It may also be helpful to reach out to the person or organization being highlighted and see if they’re still happy with their solution or if other problems have arisen.
Additionally, consider asking for recommendations from industry peers at conferences and other relevant events. Their firsthand experiences and opinions should prove useful if your operations are similar.
3. Assess Financial Stability
A technology vendor’s financial stability is a clue into their ability to provide ongoing support and development.
If you notice they’re struggling in the money department — unrelated to economic factors like inflation and recession — they may not be making their clients happy. As you’d expect, those clients are likely letting them go, and the vendor’s revenue keeps decreasing.
Request financial statements, evaluate growth trends and ask about their long-term stability. You may also want to ask about outside investors or the potential of outside investors — it could give insights regarding competing priorities. You may or may not receive the info you request, but it’s best to try regardless.
Here’s another side to consider: A financially secure vendor is more likely to invest in product enhancements and customer support. Both help them better meet your association’s needs if you start a partnership.
4. Examine Technical Expertise
This step is an absolute must!
Carefully scrutinize the technical capabilities of any vendor you’re considering partnering with. You need to ensure they have the expertise to support your specific needs. If they don’t, there’s no use working with them.
To start, evaluate their team’s qualifications, certifications and experience in delivering solutions that help you better serve your members. A vendor that deeply understands your industry and has a proven track record is better positioned to capitalize on your association’s current strengths while propelling you to greater success.
5. Review Security and Compliance Measures
Unfortunately, cyberthreats and data breaches are becoming increasingly common — security is more paramount than ever.
To keep your company’s data safe, inquire about a vendor’s security protocols, data encryption methods and industry regulatory compliance. You certainly need to know how they handle data privacy. And most importantly, ensure their practices align with your association’s standards and legal requirements.
6. Evaluate Support and Maintenance Services
It’s no surprise that support and maintenance are critical components of any successful partnership — not just for those in the technology industry.
Ask about a vendor’s support services and response times. Understanding the level of ongoing support you can reasonably expect is essential to maintaining your tech investment’s functionality. Additionally, learn about any escalation procedures they use for issue resolution — we all know challenges arise when we least expect them.
And don’t forget that as business evolves, so should the technology solutions you use. Ensure the vendor’s offerings are scalable and flexible. That indicates whether they can feasibly accommodate your future growth and adapt as needed.
Even if a vendor seems equipped to support you right now, it’s great to have the reassurance that they can keep up with your growth and maintain services in the future. This prevents you from bouncing from vendor to vendor.
7. Examine Total Cost of Ownership
While a technology solution’s initial cost is clearly important, you should also evaluate its long-term total cost of ownership (TCO).
Factor in these aspects:
- Implementation costs
- Continued support costs
- Maintenance fees
- Ongoing training
- Any potentially hidden expenses
A frank discussion about TCO gives you a fairly accurate picture of your expected investment. It also helps prevent (and prepares you for) challenges down the road.
8. Request Proof of Concept
Before making your final decision, request a proof of concept (POC) or a trial period to see a vendor’s tool/solution in action.
This hands-on experience educates you on the solution’s overall compatibility (think user experience and general performance) with your company’s workflows.
A strong POC represents a vendor’s commitment to delivering tangible value.
9. Negotiate Clear Service-Level Agreements
Define clear service-level agreements (SLAs) that outline a vendor’s support commitments regarding performance and availability.
Straightforward SLAs provide a basis for measuring the vendor’s performance and ensure both parties mutually understand expectations. Remember to negotiate terms that align with your association’s priorities and allow flexibility.
[Related: 4 Ways Associations Can Improve Operations]
Contact Dennison and Associates for a Reliable Tech Partnership
The right technology vendor isn’t just a provider — they’re a strategic partner invested in your organization’s success. By investing time and effort into thoroughly vetting vendors, you can mitigate risks and foster successful partnerships!
However, vetting technology vendors requires more effort than you may have time to give. Dennison & Associates can help you with creating a request for proposal to support the assessment and selection of your ideal technology vendor.
Contact us today to get started or if you have any questions.
Featured image via Unsplash