Vendor Selection Tips

What's a reasonable vendor selection process?

Selecting the right vendor starts with knowing what you want and then finding the supplier that will get you what you want. Here's a breakdown of what this might entail:

Step 1) Understanding the requirement
Step 2) Generating the options
Step 3) Analyzing the options
Step 4) Selecting the best option
Step 5) Getting the decision to proceed

Informal vendor selection (Fast track)

Use this approach if you need to turn around a decision really quickly and you have the remit or necessary sponsor support to keep it informal.

Step 1) Understanding the requirement

It's pretty important that you have an idea of the desired outcome before even considering vendors. A standard gap analysis is a great approach to getting to understanding the problem. Work out where you want to be (i.e. the end state) make sure it's ecologically sound. That is to say that the outcome is beneficial in some way to all concerned! Invest the time to articulate exactly what you want in the form of a problem statement(perhaps reinforced by a statement of what you don't want). The principle being that your chances of getting what you want dramatically increases if you know what you want ;-). It helps to use the problem statement to identify your selection criteria (see Step 3 below)

Try to have the target budget identified. This may need to be challenged later depending on the criticality of the desired outcome.

Step 2) Generating the options

Use your problem statement (created in Step 1) to identify possible vendors. You may want to contact your procurement department to check whether they have any preferred suppliers to hand. (Note: You may need to be sensitive to existing supplier relationships). The next stop should be your immediate professional network followed eventually by speculative internet search. Generate the list of potentials bearing in mind that time is of the essence.

Contact them by phone at first to weed out the obvious mismatches. Once you've got a short list together send them your problem statement via email (or mail). Follow this up with a phone call explaining your time constraints and openly request their support. Be sure to share any information fairly across your vendors. (e.g. an answer to a question may need to be shared with the other vendors)

Set-up a demo day for all your vendors.

Step 3) Analysing the options

Invest in getting a few key assessors together that will balance your judgement. The pay-off will be that your selection is less likely to be overturned later on. These additional perspective will ensure that your blind spots are covered.

Create a score card with the selection criteria down one side in rows and the vendor options in the columns for assessment. The intention is to score each criteria out of five for each vendor (where 5 = 'excellent fit for purpose' and 1 = 'unfit for purpose').

Apart from the usual logistics (meeting rooms, diaries etc.) make sure you have briefed your assessors on the problem and the instructions for filling in the score cards.

Step 4) Selecting an option

Make sure the vendor demonstrations focus on addressing the problem statement. Collate the score card results. Add the scores up for each vendor and calculate the percentage of the maximum available. You can express this percentage as 'the estimated percentage match to requirement'.

Offset these percentages against the cost profile for each vendor. Try to identify the vendor with both the highest percentage match and the lowest price.

Discuss your findings with the other assessors (make sure you have consensus).

Step 5) Getting a decision to proceed

Present your findings to the decision maker(s) along with your recommendation. Make sure the next steps are agreed (i.e. what you need from them to proceed) this could be an authorising email or Purchase Order. This will depend on the Inform your vendors of the outcome and try and provide as much feedback as possible.

In part two we'll look at fast tracking this with little more formality.

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