Myth #3: Online Research To Choose Vendors/Solutions Is Sufficient – Part #3 (Lesson 11)
‘Familiarity with a product or service makes it suitable for this project’
Imagine that a key senior stakeholder in the decision-making process says, “We used ABC product at XYZ organisation and again at ANO company, and we had a good experience on both occasions.”
That seems like a good recommendation, and certainly one that should be strongly taken into account. Because the person has certain influence in the organisation, they may not be challenged too strongly through the procurement process. But…
- How much impact does this have on performing appropriate due diligence?
- How heavily weighted is evidence that supports the key senior stakeholder’s recommendation, compared with evidence that challenges it?
- How seriously are the competing products evaluated?
- How relevant are the other companies’ experiences to your own organisation?
- How similar were the business processes, and the customer-base?
I have seen this scenario many times. Familiarity with a particular solution is comforting. It is even useful – if that knowledge is genuinely used as a yardstick for comparison, and as a means to ask the competing suppliers challenging questions.
All too often, though, that is not the case. Familiarity with the preferred product introduces a complacency that simultaneously makes the team:
- Blind to information that contradicts this preference.
- Place undue significance on information that supports it.
Let me use an unlikely example to illustrate this very likely scenario.
‘Let’s get the kids to help choose the product!’
Imagine that the key senior stakeholder asked either of my two very bright (adult) sons to provide a shortlist of the top five to ten software products for a particular business need. I have no doubt that my sons could come up with a credible list in a relatively short time. They would simply use the assistance of their preferred search engine.
Imagine that the same stakeholder then gave them some specific areas to research for their list of software packages. Perhaps he told them to add the preferred product to their list if they had not found it online during their initial search. I am certain that they would also be able to come up with appropriate additional information for comparison purposes.
After all, the world of information is at their fingertips.
This ‘body of evidence’ can then be tidied up into a neat document with some nice feature comparison tables tucked away in the appendices. There could even be a nice Executive Summary and Recommended Solution authorised by the key senior stakeholder.
All that remains now is to gain executive authorisation to proceed to the next stage. Usually, this involves obtaining a commercial proposal from the preferred supplier, who coincidentally came ranked at the top.
Alternatively, at this stage the information gathered regarding the five to ten products may be assessed. Then a shortlist of perhaps two to four suppliers could be invited to the next stage – including the preferred supplier, of course.
This stage might include interviews, demonstrations, submission of various type of information and proposals – the veritable ‘dog and pony show’. Inevitably, a prize winner would be declared.
And, surprise, surprise: it is the preferred supplier!
Everyone can pat each other on the back because they have, by a scientific process of elimination, chosen the ‘right’ supplier.