The Ultimate IT Vendor Scorecard: 5 Ways to Determine the Best IT Vendor for Your Business
It’s the inevitable question every IT owner faces when shopping for external providers and solutions:
“Is this the right vendor for us?”
That question can be intimidating. Will they scale with our needs? Will they provide us with value? Will they offer sustainable service over time? More often than not, leaders either make a rash and inaccurate business decision, or stall from uncertainty, ultimately settling for the status quo when looking to improve their network.
Time is lost. Money gets wasted. Zero improvement is made.
Because of that, solving for “Is this the right vendor for us?” has become the focal point of vCom Solutions’ planning and procurement stage for businesses. So much so that we built a proprietary vendor scorecard which combines customer experience, custom benchmarking, and strategic analysis by our own subject matter experts, aiding customers in answering that question with confidence and certainty.
This vendor scorecard tool is built into our best in class IT spend management platform, vManager, and has helped countless organizations save time, headaches, and dollars on their IT strategy and implementation. Perhaps you are currently in need of that, and heavily doubting your current IT solutions. You could easily sign up right now for vManager to start exploring the benefits of our scorecard for yourself, but we also wanted to share the method behind it and show you five ways to determine if a vendor is best for your business based on some of the criteria we use for vManager’s Vendor Scorecard.
1) They Offer Pricing and Incentives That Fit Your Business
Let’s be honest – if it doesn’t work within your budget, it’s not happening. The first thing a business needs to assess when sourcing vendors for their IT strategy is to determine whether or not the investment both makes financial sense and yields return. A few considerations can help provide clarity on this, including:
- Understanding your team and company’s goals and validating how these investments contribute to them
- Consulting with your team and colleagues to address any and all gaps and needs within your organization
- Compare and contrast with existing infrastructure and resources, making sure any spend made is not redundant, unnecessary, or incompatible with legacy IT you intend to preserve
- Build documentation that helps track all of your assets, services, and line items – both current and proposed.
Those first three actions, while challenging in their own right, are doable; however, that last, vital step of tracking your IT assets will make any manager shudder. Simply put, it’s daunting – and it is immediately apparent how an IT spend management software could make this process not only more organized, but smoother and faster.
Equally daunting is the challenge of shopping for and comparing pricing of various options, to determine what market rates are. vCom’s vManager includes a Kayak-like shopping tool, allowing a customer to easily search, add, and price out potential vendors and providers – swapping them in and out with ease and quickly getting a clear overview of how their budget is being impacted.
2) They Provide a Smooth Transition
Another huge consideration is how to transition your existing IT infrastructure to a new one, or making new additions compatible with your existing workflow. If not done swiftly and smoothly, the introduction of new providers or vendors can slow down a company’s output, not to mention introduce new pitfalls that could become legacy problems that negatively impact your following year’s budget to fix. Or even worse, a botched turnaround could lead to unwanted downtime.
Downtime is inevitable to some extent when transitioning products or services, so it has to be managed properly to make sure business is experiencing the least interference possible. A few ways to minimize downtime include:
- Schedule installations, upgrades, and migrations during off or low traffic hours
- Determine whether a piece-by-piece or all-at-once approach is best for you business (should you be down for one larger chunk, or several short sporadic spurts over time)
- Ensure that the vendor will work with you to do basic testing before cut-over to your new services.
- Introduce a temporary back-up option, or test out a redundancy, in order to keep work happening
Avoiding all of this requires hands-on consulting with the providers you are interested in on-boarding. Don’t settle for a cookie cutter solution. Instead, make it a requirement that they analyze and scope your current setup and design a custom solution to make your upgrade seamless.
This can be an awkward step, however. Not everyone is an expert on everything, so you have to watch out for being duped or mislead in areas where you may not have the strongest knowledge base. vCom protects customers from this by offering our subject matter experts across a variety of fields to interface with providers for you, filling the knowledge gaps and reducing unnecessary purchases that can occur when trying to go it alone and making risky budget decisions on a learning curve. Not only that, but vCom polices the efforts, making sure providers contractually agree to a transition schedule and stick to it, creating a peace of mind in knowing that whoever you choose will get the job done on time and on budget.
3) They Are Accountable
Anyone can make promises, but a good vendor puts their money where their mouth is. Service level agreements should be robust – not merely account for the work being done but taking into consideration its continued performance.
Take notice of vendors and providers that offer credits for outages or delays, replace chronically failing services without charge, and define clear escalation paths when things go awry. Insurances such as these speak volumes to not only a provider’s reliability, but their accountability. They offer such good service that they don’t expect problems, and if there are, they’ll handle them no questions asked. These are the types of providers that rank high in vCom’s vendor criteria, and if you go about searching for them on your own, you should prioritize them, too.
4) They Can Help You Scale
The reason you are most likely upgrading your existing network is because you outgrew it – and as you (hopefully) grow more in the future, you want to make sure your new infrastructure can support it. Whether it is adding switches, changing carriers, or deploying new nodes, providers should always be vetted on their ability to scale.
This, however, can be difficult to forecast. While you are in the weeds with trying to solve for current problems, it can be hard to anticipate what could arise down the road. The goal here is not to know exactly what problems lie ahead, but instead making sure the vendor you are engaging with is flexible, showcasing track record of providing flexible solutions as needs and technology change over time. Determining that can be done by having them provide examples, but also by taking the last – and possibly most important – step…
5) You Rely on Personal Experience from Trust Sources
There is perhaps nothing better than a good recommendation from a trusted source with personal experience. When someone suggests that your business use a certain vendor, they are not merely endorsing them but putting their reputation on the line, as well.
When vetting your various IT options, it’s important to seek out these opinions. Ask providers for references, get in touch with their existing (and past) customers, and source the judgements of entrusted experts within your own professional network. Of course, despite being important, this is time consuming step, which gets expedited when implementing a white glove, IT spend management strategy, like vCom’s vManager.
For 17+ years, vCom has paired businesses with IT solution providers in various technologies – from SD-WAN to SaaS to mobile communications. Throughout that, we not only became subject matter experts in various IT fields, but we have developed a critical eye for vendors and providers who deliver an exceptional experience and product. We happily offer this personal experience to customers in the sourcing process, building custom RFP’s to send providers that blend our white glove prowess pairs with our robust vManager platform, and ultimately rating which providers best suit your business’ needs.
When we construct an RFP, the first thing we do is work with customers to document the criteria that meets their technical and business needs. We then take this criteria to providers, walking them through it in detail, and both identifying good matches while addressing any potential risks. As we move closer to choosing the right provider for a business, we conduct follow up interviews with them to ensure the provider’s technical promises and fill in any gaps. This back and forth personalization can take a single IT manager weeks, if not months, yet is something vCom can complete in a matter of days.
Accountability is Key
“Is this the right vendor for us?” is a question that can surface multiple times throughout the course of IT budgeting – from the very beginning to the day of adoption. Because of that, your job is to answer that question throughout the entire process – and we believe it is our job to help you do so. These five points are important ones, but at vCom we dive much deeper to insure the vendors you use are the right fit for you, and the table below showcases all of the criteria in which we gauge and score vendors.
Considering more benchmarks and being more thorough will ultimately lead to a better decision in selecting vendors for your IT strategy, and adding a layer of accountability – such as incorporating vCom’s subject matter experts and spend management tools like vManager – can turn your certainty into unquestionable confidence.