A client recently shared with me his bold technique for evaluating vendors. If the references are glowing, he said, his committee rules them out. It sounds counterintuitive on first pass. Why wouldn’t an organization seek out a vendor with perfect recommendations?
Because no technology is perfect. Particularly in the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, the technology you buy today will be obsolete in three or four years. Instead, he probes for evidence of true partnership: honesty, integrity and a tenacious commitment to their clients’ success.
In an industry where tech companies are known for overcommitting, and where implementations routinely run above budget and behind schedule, partnership is everything. Based on my team’s experience, the following guidelines will ensure you are buying an honest, ongoing relationship focused on your success, not simply a temporary technology solution.
Deemphasize the Quick Surface Demo
People tend to buy software based upon how slick it looks onscreen during a two-hour demo. Demos are important, but they provide the least relevant information for evaluating attributes such as level of service or commitment to evolving as their clients’ business needs change. Don’t become so enamored by a relatively short, superficial demo that you neglect to drill deeper into the organization.
Meet the Team
An extraordinary sales team may be indicative of a strong organization, but it doesn’t guarantee one. Over the course of a five-year vendor contract, you will be relying on the vendor’s implementation specialists, developers, customer service representatives, account managers and more to integrate the new technology into your systems and workflow. How many of the vendor’s implementations are completed on time? How responsive is the customer service team in the event of an outage? It is incumbent upon you to explore the process from end to end, getting to know all the people who collectively will deliver on the partnership. Ensure their entire team is capable of supporting yours.
Look for Third-Party Corroboration
The people who proclaim their honesty the loudest often turn out to be the most dishonest. You need credible, objective information to confirm that vendors truly are the organizations they say they are. In addition to conducting your own reference checks, consult your industry’s research reports for a broad view of a vendor’s performance, capabilities and reputation. Firms such as KLAS and Gartner study industry sectors, interview hundreds of client organizations, and compare solution offerings to provide an impartial assessment of technology options. Utilize this data as one more data point before making your selection.
In the end, evaluating vendor partners is about asking the right questions. Product features will change, and your business objectives will evolve. Hire the vendor that you trust the most. You won’t regret it.