Although most organizations use RFPs to find technological solutions for business problems, RFPs place a lot of emphasis on functional needs, but do not focus on the nature of the problems they are trying to solve. In addition, many RFP processes keep suppliers away, preventing them from asking the key questions needed to propose the optimal solution.
Therefore, RFPs are generally suitable for evaluating commodities and services where determining product capabilities is an easy process. Because ECM solutions are not a “commodity”, it is important to understand how to evaluate the solution next to RFP or instead of RFP.
On paper, all solutions seem to do the same thing
The reality is that there is no ECM solution or one-size-fits-all provider on the market. There are significant differences between ECM products and their suppliers, and those differences are often difficult to identify, but understanding them is crucial to making the right decision.
RFP responses often allow a seller to explain what their product can do, but not how. And the way the problems are solved is the place where the differences between products and suppliers start to be seen.
For example, there are major architectural differences between products. At one end of the spectrum are “heavyweight” infrastructures, complex ECM platforms that only large organizations can really use. At the other extreme are systems that are simple and ‘cost-effective’ for departmental implementations, but which are not scalable and can be easily scaled up as the organization grows.
There are few solutions between these two extremes. These systems are attractive to both medium and large organizations because they have a scalable architecture in purpose, performance and sophistication.
There are even greater differences between suppliers and products depending on organizational dynamics, expertise in various industries and market strategies. Some vendors focus exclusively on the ECM while others may see it as a side-business. Some work only in certain industries, others offer more flexibility but less expertise in the industry.
Ask critical questions during the selection process:
- What kind of customer will I be for this seller?
- Would I be a big or small customer?
- Am I in the seller’s target market, or am I just an opportunistic victory?
How can you resolve these issues?
- Compare offers using concrete usage scenarios.
- Compare how providers work to see if they can work with your team.
- Give suppliers the opportunity to understand your business and your needs.
With these things in mind, the IT department has the foundation from which to provide a strategic advantage to the organization. With this kind of information, the IT department transforms from a call center for solving technical problems into a business partner.