Vendor selection can be a touchy subject. Often times the person or team tasked with selecting a new service desk or asset management tool isn’t a vendor manager by title, but they are stakeholders with interest in the choice that is made. While you don’t necessarily need special training in vendor selection, you can still take a smart approach.
To make your life just a little bit easier, as you go through what some would call a “daunting process,” here are a few things to consider…
Define the Internal Key Players
IT service management (ITSM) tools can benefit more than just your help desk. Have you talked to your change management, infrastructure, or application support teams? Do you know what they are struggling with and if it could be resolved in the same solution you’re looking into? Facilities, HR, Marketing, and Accounting may also be looking for a tool that could simplify processes or automate the mundane, so why couldn’t they also participate in the search? (Or, at least, share with you their needs.)
Who is pounding their fists the loudest? Does that mean that their requirements are the most important? This is a part of the art of selecting a vendor. This is tough because everyone works differently. And, let’s face it — it isn’t always easy for a normal person to gather requirements about how the infrastructure and application support teams work. Ask around and get input, then create a large list. Once you have your large list of requirements, compare the requirements requested — there’s sure to be some duplicates (just described in different ways). There may also be a few items that you can toss out immediately. Dwindle the list down to the absolute must-haves (this may still be a long list, but you’ll be on a better path).
Do the Research
It goes back to what works for some doesn’t always work for all. Just because your friend highly recommends a particular solution, doesn’t mean that it will fit your business. Do your own due diligence by investigating different vendors in the space that make sense for your particular requirements. There are review sites, like Capterra, G2Crowd, and Software Advice that will give you a broader view of the success other IT organizations have had (or haven’t had) with a particular platform.
Start Reaching Out to Vendors
By this point, you hopefully have a good understanding of who is responsible for the business processes of each team, and now you’ve put together a holistic view that will help guide you in conversations with vendors. With your requirements list in hand, schedule time with vendors to walk you through the product. Many vendors offer a free trial period that will let you get into the solution and start building out your requirements so that you really get a feel for it. A trusted vendor should also help you do that, they are the experts after all. You should feel empowered to ask a vendor, “What will life be like for our organization working in X?” A transparent and honest answer should be exactly what you’re looking for.
Talk to Industry Peers
Finally, any sales representative you talk to should be able to provide references. Any potential business partner should have enough happy customers that are willing to share their thoughts. The references should have both pros and cons, so make sure you consider both. Ask them questions to help understand what their life is like using this particular ITSM tool. Try to get referrals for businesses similar to yours in size and industry — it can’t hurt to talk to someone from a company that does what you do, that is located in the same region, and of similar size and complexity.
In a SaaS world, the “project” of moving to a new service desk is really gathering requirements so that everyone’s needs are addressed as much as possible. Each stakeholder wants to feel like their voice was heard when the decision is made. And, the best part of that is that by addressing their requirements, the solution should be adopted with less resistance. After you’ve established the internal side of vendor selection, you should feel like you have a good relationship with the vendor you choose and that they will work with you to meet your needs. On the business front, you can even confirm that the SaaS vendor will limit the increase next year, allowing you to budget appropriately. You should have a good feeling after the handshake that the vendor will take care of you during implementation and throughout your life as a customer.