When you go into any marketplace looking for a technology solution to address a complex problem, you basically have two options.
You can look at “best of class” rankings and pick near the top – this will save you time but it may cost you a lot of money.
The other option is to carry out an exhaustive search and hopefully use non-subjective filtering to find a “best fit”, spending time but saving money.
“Best of Class” – How it often works.
The first criteria of importance when you want to make a “best of class” product selection decision is the integrity and capability of the ranking service. Have the vendor products actually been evaluated or is the ranking a function of how much money vendors have paid to have their products “evaluated”?
Next, we have to worry about what type of prospective customer the ranking was done for.
A high-ranking system that handles a certain volume of transactions but is not scalable may not work for you.
“Best Fit” – How it usually really works
For organizations that want to do their own ranking, the usual approach is to prepare and issue an RFP. Corner cutting in this area usually results in the manufacture of a features list that may or may not be reflective of the needs of end-users.
A better approach is to consult users to find out what they actually need and write-up the RFP request on that basis.
Neither of these approaches results in a shopping list that requests a solution for unanticipated future needs. For this, you have to go to an experienced consultant, bearing in mind that most consultants with the ability to consistently predict the future will be difficult to lure out of the private Caribbean islands they have retired to.
This puts your solution search between ”Save Time and Spend” and “Spend Time and Save” in that preparing an RFP is a non-trivial exercise both time and money wise. The folks who prepare the RFPs do not always know, or bother to find out, what their users want or need, so they consult product literature and prepare an inventory of features across a large number of vendors.
The vendors invest heavily in responding and the one with the most features often gets the contract, all other things being equal. Except when the buyer has decided in advance who is to get the contract in which case the future “also ran” vendors really should not spend a lot of time and money responding to the RFP.
RFPs often start “feature wars” where any vendor capable of understanding the Scope of Work (SOW) will traipse through the checklists and respond positively.
The problem with “best fit” is users usually only need 10% of the features requested and so you can quickly see that a vendor high up on the feature count list might score very poorly on the few features that the users actually need. It would be helpful if features could be ranked on the basis of their usefulness but that seems to be difficult, particularly when the buyers go into the marketplace without bothering to consult the users re what is/is not important to them.
The easy route ends up being expensive and the difficult route takes a long time.