IT Vendors and Solution Selection

IT Vendors and Solution Selection Checklist

When transitioning to a new solution, do IT vendors elicit a mix of anticipation and fear? That makes sense. You're eager to see the new service hard at work, but simultaneously concerned it won't live up to promised hype or deliver on promises made by the supplier.

Also, these transitions tend to cost a lot of money and resources, so a failed transisition usually doesn't bode well to the decision-maker. Although no transition is foolproof, it's worth running down the following support checklist. Have you covered all your bases, or is there more work to do before you take the plunge?

Have you researched other vendors?

The act of bringing in a new tech vendor is a lot like hiring a new employee. If you haven't spent the time "interviewing" prospective providers and vetting their resumes, take a step back and do some more research.

Do they eat their own dogfood?

If an APM vendor is trying to sell you their monitoring tool, but you notice that their competitor's tool is open in the background on their computer during a demo, that probably doesn't instill confidence. Does your potential vendor use its own product or eschew it in favor of other solutions? Since you're likely making the switch to a new service or technology, your new vendor should be prepared to demonstrate the same confidence in that offering.

If they don't use it, ask why. If they do, ask for proof.

Is it a closed environment?

Is the technology interoperable with other offerings or are you compelled to use only what the vendor is selling? More so, what's the plan when you switch providers or if the vendor goes out of business? Bottom line: If they're locking you in, get out. The last thing you want to have is a broken legacy tool without any support. Unfortunately, it happens all the time so make sure you have a an option to get out.

Is there data to support their cause?

If you're looking to link up with a new vendor, ask how they track customer needs and serve up effective solutions. The answer should be a brand of data analytics. If it's a generalized "mission statement" about customization or best practices, take a pass. Hard data is critical to handle customer needs effectively.

Does it meet your needs or is it hype?

Does the product you're considering really meet your needs? It's easy to get caught in the hype trap and spring for something you don't really need. Maybe a Magic Quadrant report convinced your boss it was the hot new ticket and they couldn't turn it down. Instead, look for key characteristics such as single-pane-of-glass monitoring across physical and virtual servers as well as applications.

How does their licensing work?

How is licensing handled? Per-seat is the old standby, but it often serves to line vendors' pockets rather than offering you any significant benefit. Consider shopping for a provider that offers per-device licensing to help manage costs and simplify the process of getting up to speed. Too often do vendors provide overly complicated licensing. If you can't grasp how their licensing and pricing works then assume they did that on purpose.

Are they really trying to help you?

Whose success is your prospective partner focused on? While all IT vendors are in the market to make a healthy profit, they should have teams, systems and processes in place designed to assess your needs, measure your satisfaction and take action where warranted. If you get a "cog in the machine" or "check in the bank" vibe from your vendor, back away and find another offering.

Is their support adequate?

Support isn't a static discipline. If you're considering an agreement with a new provider, what kind of training and education is available to sysadmins down the road? If your vendor doesn't offer this or even see the need, you may want to opt out.

Break It Down

It's easy to talk generally about cost; you want to spend "X" and not exceed "Y". Here's the thing: You need a more concrete answer. Start with a decent cost calculator and see what shakes out. Refine as needed to find a bottom line that suits your needs and your budget.

All companies eventually move up, laterally or simply into a need for action to keep up with IT trends. Do your workload a favor: Run this checklist first, adjust as needed and then dive into your new investment.

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