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5 top tips to help you select the right IT supplier

by Peter MacDiarmid : Move : Improve

5 top tips to help you select the right IT supplier

How to ensure you choose an IT partner that delivers the results you need, on time and on budget? 

Here are 5 top tips to help you save money, time and effort and avoid common mistakes.

1. Requirements

What does success for this project actually look like for you and your organisation? What problems are we really trying to fix? You don’t need to know how to do it, or have gathered every single requirement, after all that’s why you’re looking for help, but you need to know what the problem is, and where you want to be after this project.

2. Research

Google is great starting point. Look for organisations who attend industry events, have relevant industry case studies on their website (or a partner’s). Have they solved similar problems to yours? Could they be a good cultural fit with your organisation?

Word of Mouth - Speak to the people in your team and speak to the leaders in your organisation. Have any of them been involved in a successful project like this before? The chances are that what you’re trying to achieve is not unique, and they have relevant previous experience, why not pick their brains?

Pick up the phone! We have seen time and time again that those in sectors such as Social Housing, Local Government, Education etc. love to share the benefits of their experience with other like-minded organisations. Take advantage of that goodwill and then remember pass it on when someone gets in touch with you!

3. Selection Meetings

If you’ve found 2 or 3 potential suppliers who have met your criteria, now it’s time to meet them. You should be on the lookout for:

  • Cultural fit – could you work with this organisation successfully?
  • Expertise – can they demonstrate their expertise?
  • Inquisitiveness - do they listen and ask relevant questions?

Ideally potential suppliers should to be willing to challenge your assumptions and suggest alternate approaches.

Remember, you will be paying an organisation to advise you on how best to solve your business problems, not to agree with you! This isn’t about the supplier trying to score points; it’s about making sure that your organisation ends up with the best solution possible. It’s just possible these experts may have ideas that you haven’t considered.

Next arrange a session with one of the organisations consultants. This can help you get a better feel for what working with them could be like.

Finally ask for a proposal which outlines the project approach and costings.

4. Procurement Approach

Here are few suggestions to help you avoid an outcome you don’t want.

  • Choose an approach that is appropriate for the project. E.g. don’t open this out to all suppliers for a £5k project unless you have to - you don’t want to do due diligence on 100 responses.
  • If you’re in the public sector speak to your procurement team about what frameworks are available and check the suppliers you have met with are on them.
  • Don’t set a budget without speaking to suppliers first, you don’t want to get 10 quotes for £100k if you have a £25k budget, no one looks good if that happens.
  • Don’t bind yourself to accept the lowest price. If you get a wide range of pricing ask questions - e.g. what have they missed out, why are they trying to buy the business, are the higher priced organisation trying to rip me off?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask clarification questions of a range of suppliers, they want to work with you so make sure you get things clarified if you have any questions

5. References

Finally, if you think that you have a supplier or couple of suppliers in the running then take the time to actually speak to their customers, if it’s possible visiting them can be even better. References should never just be a token gesture at the end, this is your chance to see how you might feel after working with this supplier. A few suggestions:

  • Ask for multiple references, and ask for at least one to be sector specific
  • Make sure what has been delivered is similar to what you’re doing
  • If you have any concerns about a supplier, then ask their customers if they were issues for them.

Remember that at the end of the day, it’s the suppliers personnel that will make the project a success so above all look for high integrity and a good cultural fit.

Author: Peter MacDiarmid -