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 to a new 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 they worked at.

The world of enterprise digital communication tools is moving so fast that this is one decision you will not want to make by looking in the rear-view mirror. Particularly if it is someone else’s rear-view mirror. It’s also easy to be seduced by a flashy-looking marketing campaign. Don’t. Be sure to bring it back to your own organisation’s business case.

Clearly, if you have defined your high-level business requirements then 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 (if that is the case).

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.

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 judge the proposals of the vendors you select for your tendering process.

The functional requirements also reflect the strategy for your new intranet. This can include:

  1. Prioritisation/personalisation
  2. Enhanced search
  3. Mobile first communication
  4. Platform management/governance
  5. In-group collaboration
  6. Knowledge-sharing
  7. Integrations for key applications

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.

We strongly advise having your requirements list ready before you start to approach vendors. In doing so, it will help ensure you have clarity on what you need your platform to deliver against, rather than what it could deliver.

You would 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.

If your need is engagement with senior leaders then it may be that a social platform with a consumer-grade user experience is your priority. For many it will be a combination of both, which means your solution is likely to be a hybrid system, developed and supported by third-party specialists.

Vendors are well used to working 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? Get 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?
  • Vendor partner roadmap: what’s the ambition of the vendor? What’s on their own roadmap? Does their own culture, values and approach align with your own organisation? Remember this needs to be a partnership so you need to have security that they will evolve as you do and that they will be responsive to your needs.

And perhaps most importantly of all, how adaptable is the team behind the smooth salesperson? The people behind the platform will be your intranet housemates for years to come. So ask yourself, will this work? You will be relying on them both to deliver the product and support 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.

simplycommunity members have complimentary access to our advisory services. If you need any support for any stage of the procurement process, book in a discovery call with our head of consulting, Jonathan Phillips, to see how simply might be able to help.

THE AUTHOR

Lisa Pantelli, head of content & community

Lisa is simply’s head of content and community. She is an award-winning employee engagement and internal communications specialist.

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