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How To Evaluate Collaboration Vendors: Eight Variables

I’m sure you have noticed that many of the enterprise collaboration vendors out there are starting to look very similar; not just in appearance, but also in functionality.  

In fact, if you were to visit the exhibit hall at a collaboration conference and cover up the logos of the vendors, it would be pretty hard to differentiate who is who. Vendors know this and customers know this.

The big challenge for many companies is how to evaluate various vendors out there. This is actually a very common challenge that companies are faced with and all too often I hear about instances where a company choses a vendor only to realize that they picked the wrong one (usually because they never went through a scoring or evaluation process).

I will talk about the actual evaluation process in an upcoming post, but first let’s look at the 8 variables that all vendors in the enterprise collaboration space compete against. 
Eight Collaboration Vendor Variables.jpg      

You have may some other variables that are relvant to you which you can add to this list, in fact I highly enourage you to do so, the goal here is that this needs to make sense for you and your company. 

Price

The basis for understanding this is simple: how much do they charge for using their platform? You will find that the two most common ways vendors will charge you are per seat (per user) and per page view. So it’s important to understand how many users you are thinking about including.

You want to look at this in a few different time frames: understand what it will cost now, in six months, in one year, in two years and beyond two years. This doesn’t have to be an exact science, but it will help you think in terms of cost.

Perhaps for the first year you want to try piloting this concept to a small team of 100 employees. After two years you may want to roll out the platform to thousands of employees, so this is something you need to consider. Another thing you want to consider when it comes to price is the ability to add additional users or remove users without incurring any penalties or altering the cost of each seat purchased (unless, of course, the cost is lowered and not increased).

Features

What is it exactly that this platform can do for you, and what makes it different from the others?

As was previously mentioned, you will find that many vendors look alike and appear to have very similar feature sets. The best way to determine the proper features is by first developing a set of use cases and then mapping those to feature requirements.

Some vendors offer collaboration solutions specifically for employees, and other vendors support developing external customer communities, which is why it’s important to think of this from several different timing perspectives. You may start off working with a vendor that offers only employee collaboration features and then decide you want to collaborate with customers as well and be forced to work with an additional vendor.

People

You want to make sure that you’re working with a vendor that not only has a great product but has people who will treat you well. I have had several clients whom I tried to refer to vendors in the past only to find that those vendors were rude or promised things that they never delivered on; this is not the type of vendor my clients will be working with.

Since the emergent collaboration space is always evolving, you are most likely going to be growing and learning along with whatever vendor you go with, so making sure you are on the same page is important. Ask for previous reference customers and talk to them so that you can find out what they found easy and frustrating about working together.

If the vendor typically works with enterprise clients and you are a small or midsize business, you want to make sure you are treated with the same respect and care that the enterprise-size customers get treated with.

Technology and Security

Some organizations choose on-premises solutions, some choose cloud-based solutions, and others choose a hybrid of the two. Every organization has its own measures of what it considers secure and acceptable. Whatever your choice is, you want to make sure that security is taken care of (usually by your IT folks) and that your data are safe.

 

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