I’ve seen my fair share of tender requests and have been involved in many sales engagements. So it is interesting to pause and reflect on what it is that clients really want to buy when buying complex IT applications.
At face value it is instinctive to assume that an organisation will focus on technology, after all you’ve gone to market to pick a new product or application – haven’t you? At some point someone has identified a problem, deduced that software, can be used to plug the gap and hence a project is born. Surely the next step is to develop a tick n’ flick questionnaire listing out your required functionality and then evaluate vendors based on their responses.
What we actually see is buyers falling to into two camps. Those that focus on the product (method 1) and those that focus on the partner/vendor (method 2).
Focusing on product makes reasonable and logical sense. We need a product that does X, Y and Z, so let’s ask the market to compete based on the functionality fit (and of course price!).
What about clients that focus on the partner. Before we go further, we are not saying that questions of the partner don’t enter into the buying decisions of method 1; it is simply that in Method 2, there is greater emphasis on the partner than the technology. In this case the argument follows the hypothesis “The technology will work (or can be made to work), what is most variable are the people doing the implementation”. A crude analogy, but think of who wins a battle, is it the type of gun that makes the difference or the strategy, tactics and battle-plan from the generals and army?
Rapidly developing technology often means that missing functionality can be expected in future releases or the technology allows for customisation to tailor the situation. In either case, you will certainly need to work with a 3rd partner to design and implement the technology you have chosen. You will want to pick someone you can trust (integrity), someone you expect will be there for the long-haul (financial viability), someone with the years of experience (knowledge) and of course someone you can get along with. In regard to the latter point, just because you had over a cheque does not mean your teams will automatically gel and work co-operatively. A dysfunctional project often has its roots in poor inter-personal relationships and is rarely a result of technology alone.
Therefore, it does make sense, especially when projects are large and complex to invest time picking your partner. The success of the project will have as much to do with how you can work with a partner. Not only when things go well but also not so well. Most problems with technology can be overcome (eventually!), but finding a cooperative partner will make the world of difference.