Myth #3: Online Research To Choose Vendors/Solutions Is Sufficient – Part #4 (Lesson 12)
Using non-experts to choose the product or services
Every day, worryingly, non-expert teams are pulled together and asked to choose multimillion-dollar solutions to problems that businesses experience.
I say non-expert, but these teams will – more often than not – know their business domain to a very good degree.
However, this does not necessarily mean that they are familiar with many of, or even ANY of, the key areas needed to reach this particular procurement decision. They may not know:
- The procurement process for multimillion-dollar investments (if that is even defined).
- Supplier evaluation and comparison techniques.
- How to implement or develop software packages.
Think about these questions:
- How often has your organisation invested in a multimillion-dollar enterprise system – say, in the last three, five, ten, or even twenty years?
- Who from your buying team was involved – or have they all moved on?
- Who has experience evaluating and comparing any software solutions at all?
Perhaps using my two sons for your evaluation in the previous article is not such a crazy idea after all!
These ill-equipped teams are often ordinary employees, placed into extraordinary circumstances, and asked to help to make substantial investment decisions.
From the employees’ point of view, this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime project – compared to, say, the individuals on the supplier team who (hopefully, but not always) have experienced doing this dozens of times.
The investment involved is mind-bogglingly huge in comparison to their own remuneration.
They have never done anything like this digital transformation before, and may never do so again.
The opportunity they have been provided with is new and exciting to them, and they will definitely learn from the experience.
However, having been around people and projects for years, one thing I do know is this: almost everyone is afraid of projects at different times and for different reasons. Projects are seen as these big, mysterious, unknown, unmanageable, and scary entities that all too often end in failure.
No one wants to be associated with failure – more than this, no one wants to have their shortcomings highlighted or to actually be blamed for the failure. So, your non-expert team members will happily latch onto anything that will help them, particularly if it means they are unlikely to get the blame later.
The dated axiom of buying teams: ‘Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’ played to the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) of those in the process. And it often resulted in organisations buying solutions from the best-known big brands, rather than from the best fit.
Thus, the buying team is likely to be unduly influenced by less-than-objective factors
- The opinion of key senior stakeholder(s) – to whom they are more junior and often also subordinate.
- Opinions of others with experience that they found on the web.
- Subtle (or not so subtle) pressure from the more sophisticated suppliers.
None of this is intended to criticise the efforts of your team – or any of the teams that I have worked with. But people can only work with the materials that they have at hand, with the best of intentions, and to the best of their abilities.
Technological advances would seem to have made it easy to choose a new supplier:
- The Internet/Web has democratised access to content.
- It is now easier to conduct ‘self-serve’ research without intermediaries.
Buyers can connect directly with opinions from other buyers from that supplier. That said, there is some progress to be made in this area – for example, validation beyond a social media profile that a person really has experience with a particular supplier.
Buyers can often access a free trial of enterprise software online.
It is ‘too easy!’