Choosing a vendor is like finding a flatmate, you have to live with the consequences of your decision no matter how dire. And kicking out a platform is considerably more stressful than moving house.
So how do you go about choosing the vendor that is right for your organisation?
First of all resist the siren calls of senior executives and IT professionals who have their favourite platform from the last organisation where they worked. The world of enterprise social networks is moving so fast that this is one decision you will not want to make by looking in the rearview mirror. Particularly if it is some one else’s rearview mirror.
Clearly if you have defined your high level business requirements than you will have half a chance of being able to use data and quotes from senior executives to resist someone else’s half-baked solution. And the outputs from your focus groups will ensure that you have the user journeys figured out that the ideal platform will need to deliver.
MoSCoW stands for Must, Should, Could, or Won’t have
This will make up your Functional Requirements document which you can use to brief a range of vendors. It is useful to include a column called MoSCOW. This stands for Must, Should, Could, Won’t have and allows you to prioritise the functions that are most important. This is essential when you come to judging the proposals of the vendors you select for your tendering process. The functional requirements also reflects the strategy for your new intranet. In the case of this example the priorities are:
- Enhanced search
- Mobile first communication
- Platform management/governance
- Collaboration in groups
Your intranet will, of course, have a different set of priorities to suit your organisation’s needs. But once you have established them you can start to make sensible choices about drawing up a shortlist. Here is an example of a Research Report to get senior buy-in to your strategy.
You will be wise to involve your IT department as they know the future roadmap of other systems. You do not want your collaborative intranet to be an island, isolated from the business applications that your colleagues use.
You will be wise to involve your IT department as they know the future roadmap…
If knowledge management is high on your list then this will lead you down the O365 path where your platform can integrate with the huge amounts of content your organisation needs to access to function and compete. If your need is engagement with senior leaders then it may be that a social platform with a consumer-grade user experience is your first priority. For many it will be a combination of both, which means your solution id likely to be a hybrid system, developed and supported by third-part specialists.
An experienced outside consultant who has worked with many different platforms will be able to help you draw up a shortlist of 5 or 6 vendors that fit the bill. You can then ask for tenders and follow your organisation’s procurement procedures to run a beauty parade.
Vendors are well used to work up proposals speculatively and will not ask for payment to do so. However, asking for more than 6 tenders is considered excessive.
Look at each proposal alongside the other members of your project team and score them against the criteria you have already agreed. Beware being seduced by beautiful imagery and layouts. Every platform can be tailored to the wireframes and style of your choice. What you do need to concentrate on is:
- Functionality – does it do all the things your user journeys require?
- Integrations – will it play with nicely with your HR, ERP and CRM systems?
- User Experience – how intuitive is it to use? Got beyond the demo and get hands on with a copy of the software.
- Mobile first – try it out on your smartphone as well as your laptop.
- Investment – how much will it cost to set up in the first place and then what are the annual running costs and licence fees?
And perhaps most importantly of all, how adaptable is the team behind the smooth salesperson? You will be relying on them both to deliver the product and support it when thousands of your colleagues are using it day in, day out. You need a vendor big enough to sort out problems within the hour 24/7 yet not so large that their product is scaled to a point that one-size fits all and you cannot customise it to your needs.