Now here is where the fun begins. For those just tuning in, your successful purchase of a CMMS began with an Xhaustive self-study of your needs and internal roadblocks followed by a drive to generate Xcitement. In our last article you Xamined vendors from a distance by doing research and educating yourself about the market, before jumping in that pool of piranhas or vendors if you prefer. And now…you’re in the pool.
As a piranha I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoy my job. There is a certain xcitement about being the first to nibble on an organization and repeatedly coming back for more till the meal…um…I mean job is done. This is where you can greatly benefit from my unique insight. Let’s shift illustrations, shall we? As a potential customer interviewing vendors, you could be considered a fan attending a sporting event…let’s say football. Now you may think you know the football teams, after all you have their roster, stat sheets and are wearing your favorite team’s apparel. But to put it bluntly, you don’t know the teams. As for consultants, they might be compared to Scouts or sportswriters. They attend many games, maybe they were a player at one time and every now and then land good interviews and gain insights. Being blunt again though, they don’t know the team.
I’m on the team. I’m in the locker room. I know the strategies. I’m one of the players, albeit a small one…say, maybe the water boy? I also know my competition. Think about it, who studies and knows more about either team on Sunday better than the opposing team?
‘But’ you may say ‘you’re biased.’ And you would be right. However, let me give you two reasons why being biased is ok.
- Everyone is.
Now this may sound outrageous, because many individuals make the ‘unbiased’ claim. It’s my personal opinion that this is impossible. To explain why, I’m going to use the famous ‘what is more likely’ scenario. What is more likely, that a professional who has spent countless hours gaining valuable experience in a given industry, studying products inside and out speaking with and perhaps knowing vendors personally, has never developed personal preferences or leanings on the subject? Or, said professional refuses to admit any preferences as it would compromise his position as an unbiased opinion? I think it’s obvious. Now if you feel insulted by the last statement, please don’t. I don’t intend this to be degrading. I respect the knowledge and passion of such professionals. Remember, I’m not lowering you by any means. I said everyone was biased. Though, that’s not entirely accurate. I think that there are two types of people who really are unbiased.
- individuals who have no knowledge about a given subject or
- people who flat out don’t care. From which of these would you like to ask advice about your project? You see, people who have no knowledge or concern are unbiased. That means the opposite is true. Those with knowledge and passion are. And that brings us to reason number 2.
2. You will have to be.
It’s an inescapable truth that as the customer you will have to be the most biased of all. After gaining your knowledge and nurturing your passion you will be deciding who’s the ‘best’ vendor. Now I can’t tell you who the ‘best’ vendor is. That’s your decision. But, I can help you with the knowledge and passion part, that is, if you want to listen to a biased telemarketer…
Xpansion: I define this point as a factor that influences a given vendor’s overall value. Xpansion appears to be pretty self-Xplanatory. (you know me and X’s…) You may already have an idea as to where I’m headed. Here are some common questions asked of vendors, in harmony with Xpansion:
- What are your plans for the future with advancements in technology?
- What current additions to your software are under development?
- What global markets are you planning to pursue?
- What platforms are you migrating towards?
- And my personal favorite…Where does your company plan to be in the next 5 years?
These questions may sound familiar. The bad part is they also sound that way to vendors. In other words, when we start hearing a familiar tune we know the words to sing. These questions aren’t bad unto themselves. It’s just when you ask them you’re basically looking for a canned response, or at least that is what you’re going to get. Now I know some may be thinking: ‘Well my question was way more specific than that.’ Well then, you likely got a slightly modified canned response. And hey, if that’s what you want to evaluate a vendor on…be my guest, you wouldn’t be the first. Often times the most polished responses come from the most polished sales person. So, then how do you evaluate a given vendor’s Xpansion? Well, let me xplain.
Xpansion can be defined as growth, which was the focus of our previous questions. That however is a guessing game, and let no one tell you other wise. Even apparently stable, growing organizations can shrink in a day. Think Enron. Xpansion must be viewed in a different light. As with all previous steps start where you are. Here are some questions to answer before we address vendors:
- Is your organization Xpanding?
- What changes to your organization do you see coming?
- What changes have been announced?
- How will a CMMS be affected by these?
The real xpansion of importance is your own. Then evaluate the given vendor based on that. Purchasing CMMS based on a vendor’s future plans is not a good idea. That would be like buying a Ford car because their concept model is cool. The concept model has nothing to do with what you get. Sure, there is value in knowing their future plans, but its relatively unimportant when compared with what they have. So look closely at a CMMS based on your xpansion needs. Those needs may include: