A Simple Guide to Evaluating Awards and Reports when Choosing a Software Vendor
We know that by the time our potential customers engage directly with us, they have already done their research. In order to ensure a thorough investigation, there are several vehicles to consider such as industry and technology websites, conversations with your peers, search engines and industry and technology analysts. While engaging directly with industry and technology analysts can be quite costly, there’s another way to find their insights: awards, evaluations and reports. Awards and reports are very valuable when choosing the right vendor with whom to partner. By evaluating reports and industry recognition, you can easily identify a short list of companies with the best technology, domain expertise, and ability to deliver a return on your business goals. And we all know that means a win-win for you and the vendor.
Of course, you could just ask a friend or colleague what they use. But will that be enough? Is your friend in the same industry as you? Do you have the same business challenges and goals? Chances are you will need to consider a lot more than just your friend’s input before getting budget approval for a transformative software solution. And analyst awards and evaluations do just that. They are chock-full of information ripe for the picking and ready for you to use in the selection process.
We’ve put together a list of how to evaluate awards and reports so that you can narrow down your search, and choose the right software vendor for your company. Let’s get started….
Where should I begin?
Make a list of what you want from a vendor. Make sure you list everything such as viability, integration capabilities, breadth and depth of functionality, leadership, innovation, partnerships, etc. as this will help you in the next stages. Once you have this list, use your favorite search engine to find vendors that rank high for these qualities.
If you already know the main vendors in the field, then just gather a list of their website domains and you will be ready for the next step.
Now, go to the website and search for awards and reports for this company. These are usually under the company information but if you are having difficulty locating them, you should start with the search mechanism on the site itself:
What should I look for in the award/report?
Awards and reports are always built on specific criteria. Look for this criteria in the front of the report or at the end of the report, but make sure you read and understand exactly what the company is being judged or rated on for the particular award/report.
Let’s take awards first. If you are looking at an award, try to understand the extent of the experience, and if there are year-over-year improvements. Is this an award by peers and industry associates? Just by looking at the list of awards on the site, you can determine if this company is improving its products year after year, and if colleagues admire and appreciate the direction of the company.
For instance, in this Frost & Sullivan Award for Strategic Leadership, it is hard to understand exactly what the award means unless you first read the criteria located on the last page:
Here the award is based on in-depth understanding of the technical features of the product, but also how it impacts the customer which is something you may only learn by doing lengthy customer interviews.
For reports, a good example is the Gartner Magic Quadrant. The Magic Quadrant is a research methodology and visualization tool for monitoring and evaluating the progress and positions of companies in a specific, technology-based market.
The Gartner Magic Quadrant is very specific with the positioning of the vendor using a two-dimensional matrix to illustrate the strengths and differences between companies. Instead of simply showing statistics or ranking companies in lists, Magic Quadrants ranks businesses according to four distinct sections: challengers, leaders, niche players and visionaries, based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute.
Gartner has a whole page on how to analyze the quadrant that you can access here.
For an example of a Magic Quadrant, see the 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management:
Another example of an analyst major evaluation is the IDC MarketScape. Here, IDC is assessing vendors on several key criteria that fall into one of two categories: Strategies and Capabilities.
Don’t forget, the point of looking at these awards and reports is so that you can narrow your search and come up with the best short list of vendors. The Gartner Magic Quadrant is built just for that. According to the WhatIs.com business intelligence – business analytics glossary:
It is also important to note that Magic Quadrants is designed to help narrow down a vendor search, not tell a customer what vendor they should choose.
Some reports may contain even more helpful information such as Buyers Guides and Points to Consider when buying a solution like in the IDC MarketScape report:
Use the information that you gather to build the next step; narrowing down your selections.
How should I narrow down the selection?
There are two ways to narrow your selection so you can actually choose a winner. First, narrow down your list to the top 3 – more than this will require too much time to go into the kind of details you will want in order to find a final vendor. Then do the following:
- Engage with the vendor and ask questions – Do you know the right questions to ask? Jennifer Lonoff Schiff does. She is a technology writer and a regular contributor to CIO.com. In her blog How to Choose the Right Software Vendor, Jennifer mentions the obvious questions you should ask the vendor such as availability and security. But what I really like are the 4 questions at the end that you may not have thought about:
- Use a decision matrix table to lay out what each vendor offers. This matrix can be as simple as a column list with criteria, importance and factors. In this how-to video from MindTools, you can learn how to easily build your own decision matrix for analysis.
Need a template? Here is a link where you can download a free copy of an excel decision matrix template.
It should be very clear from your results who your preferred vendor really is. So now you can go on to the final step; making a decision.
Now You Can Make the Decision
Now that you have the results of your questions and matrix, it’s time to make your decision.
In this case study video, The Decision Matrix in Action, the winner was chosen based on the final weighted score:
They also suggest in this video to write down a little summary of what was involved in making the decision so that it can be used as a reference or back up later on in the future.
Now that you’ve got your short list, it’s time engage with the sales managers and do a deep dive into some value added tools. Try the ROI calculators, demos and free trials of the software while looking for the value that can be added to your business. Because in the end, it’s not about how much the software costs, but the value and ROI you can get from adding this software to your business.
Ready to start your own evaluation?