If you’re looking to upgrade your collections technology soon, you may look at the multiplicity of vendors and solutions on the market and ask yourself, “Where do I start?” There are so many facets of a tech upgrade that the process can quickly become overwhelming.
If you’re considering purchasing an existing vendor product, you’ll need to have a well-thought-out plan to select the right solution for you. Below, we lay out nine steps to help you find your “best fit” technology solution from a vendor partner.
Step 1: Define The Future State Business Vision
It’s imperative that your organization gets on the same page about the future before you consider any vendor partnerships. After all, successful technology implementation is rooted in a solid understanding of the goals and strategic plans of your operation. You should consider consumer and regulatory trends when laying out your goals and ensure joint agreement of the business vision by Operations, Compliance/Risk, and IT. Consider opposing or conflicting priorities as an immediate red flag – and pause and resolve those differences accordingly. Ignoring red flags can start a domino effect of challenges, which can be costly.
Step 2: Develop Clear Requirements To Support Technology And Operations
Once you agree on the future business vision of your organization, gather and develop the requirements that support those outcomes. Be very clear and specific about the functions that you’ll require from the provider. Think through requirements with a “future state” mindset, where you walk through the most common use cases of how you’ll be using the technology across your organization. Use that exercise to ensure that your requirements are thorough. Once you gather the requirements and vet them by stakeholders, convert them into questions to ask of potential vendors. Always keep the end goal from the business vision in mind to help you focus your questions and to prioritize the merits of different solutions.
Step 3: Research And Understand Which Providers Are Appropriate For Your Business
Some technology solutions may not be scalable to a smaller or larger institution. If your solution doesn’t scale to your growth, you may be left scrambling for extra time and resources to cover gaps that arise as you grow. If the solution doesn’t scale down to your size and needs, you can find yourself paying for unused features. To avoid either of these scenarios, ensure the cost of implementation and skills required to implement and maintain a solution are appropriate to your organization’s current and future requirements.
Step 4: Solicit Bids From Industry Providers By Taking An ‘Apples to Apples’ Approach
As you begin reaching out to appropriate vendors with your questions, try consolidating every issue that you want to address into a consistent format (e.g., Excel) that allows you to easily distribute to vendors and - equally important - evaluate their responses. In that file, outline clear instructions and pricing criteria, and set a time frame for providers to submit clarifying questions. By clearly articulating these guidelines, you can level the playing field and make it easy to identify vendors who are falling short of your requests – an obvious red flag. Additionally, clear pricing guardrails ensure “apples-to-apples” comparisons in an environment where solutions can vary drastically. Taking this approach ensures that you receive data that empowers valid comparisons.
Step 5: Evaluate Responses And Select 2-3 Finalists
Before you begin receiving responses and clarifying questions back from your initial vendor outreach, make sure that you have a solid scoring methodology in place to ensure a fair and equitable evaluation. Ask multiple SME groups (such as Business/Strategy, Risk, or Technology) to evaluate vendor responses based on specific topics and sections. Ensure that each group understands the process and the criteria by which they’ll be evaluating vendor responses. You can then use those findings to select the top two or three providers for the final evaluation.
Step 6: Run Provider Demonstrations Effectively — Avoid The Generic Sales Pitch
You’re in control here – so when it’s time to demo each solution, plan ahead to avoid the generic sales pitch. Set your agenda related to the items you want to learn about rather than what the provider wants to showcase. Additionally, consider planning a breakout session with internal IT and the provider’s IT resources to help keep the agenda on track and on time.
Step 7: Ensure That The Provider Can Scale Up And Customize
Third-party providers bring many advantages, from attractive products to technical know-how and agile ways of working. But they often lack critical mass. In an ever-changing landscape, it is short-sighted to select a provider without first ensuring customization capabilities. Have your chosen partner give evidence that their solution is sufficiently resilient to support volumes without service degradation.
Step 8: Evaluate Your Organization’s Ability To Maintain the Solution
Spend the time to fully understand all of the business, administrative, and technical resources required to maintain and fully maximize the capabilities of each solution. It can be tempting to be impressed with the “bells and whistles” of a particular solution while not fully considering what it will take to maintain. Your organization must also be flexible with costs to maintain a solution. We routinely warn our clients against fixed bids for instance, because you can be on the hook for costs if things go off track with the vendor – through no fault of your own. Lastly, because consumer demand and regulatory requirements will continue to evolve, make sure that your organization is ready to adapt to these requirements. Knowing your available resources will make pivoting much smoother.
Step 9: Evaluate And Assess For ‘Best Fit' – Then Select
At the end of this process, you have established the needs and wants from a vendor solution based directly on company goals and responsibilities of your operations. You have developed a fair way of accepting and comparing vendor capabilities, and you know exactly the role and responsibilities you will play in a partnership.
It’s now time to evaluate what you learned from the finalists during onsite demonstrations and your scoring and ranking of potential solutions. Anonymize your responses to better support an evidence-based selection when you meet with key stakeholders and SMEs to weigh the pros and cons of each solution. Beware of “analysis paralysis” at this stage; if you have the data and the right decision makers, you can select a technology partner and solution that is a “best fit” for your organization. Also, take the time here to establish your basic agreement terms with the vendor, in advance of the formal contract negotiations. Getting everyone on the same page will maintain momentum and forward progress for the next step of your digitalization journey: implementation.
Evaluating and selecting the right technology solution can be one of the most important decisions your organization makes—one with long-lasting implications. Bridgeforce has experience leading all components of collections technology selections and implementations with minimal disruption to your day-to-day operations. We designed and leveraged a time-tested framework using the principles in this article to help clients identify business requirements and narrow down vendor selections at record pace. If you’d like to talk to us about helping you find the “best-fit” solution for your organization, contact us today and we’ll be happy to set up a time to learn more about your technology project.
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For over the last 20+ years, Bridgeforce has helped organizations:
Bridge gaps between operations and technology
Translate business vision into the outcomes supporting the vision
Design new data-driven processes that support achieving those outcomes
Enhance and transform operational needs from end to end
Embed control and compliance
Successfully complete projects within expected timeframes and agreed budgets
A 95% client re-engagement rate illustrates that Bridgeforce has the knowledge and experience to make the hard choices in developing and implementing best-fit solutions that are both achievable and lower the risks of execution to ensure sustainability. To learn more, please visit www.bridgeforce.com.