When you manage a procurement process for new software, it is highly likely that will involve presentations from prospective suppliers. So, how should you approach such a process, how can you manage such presentations and what questions should you ask at the presentation? In this two-part blog, I will provide some thoughts to this.
One approach I have started to use much more with my clients in a procurement process is a series of pre-demo meetings. We invite each short-listed supplier who will ultimately be giving a presentation to come to the charity's office several weeks before the presentation and spend up to, say, half a day each (longer if you like and you can spare the time) with the (key) users and managers of the charity to find out more about their requirements. I am assuming that you have already created a Statement of Requirements or Invitation to Tender document of some sort and that the supplier has already seen that, so they shouldn’t be working 'from cold' at such meetings.
The benefit of such meetings are two-way: for the supplier, they can get a much better feel as to the key needs and wishes of the client (suppliers tend to really like this) and for the charity, they get to meet the supplier and understand how they might work with them if they did get the job. I always ask the suppliers to bring not just a salesperson to such pre-demo meetings, but also a member of their staff who the charity would actually be working with if they won the contract; for example, an implementation manager, support staff, client liaison etc. It also means the supplier should be able to tailor their subsequent demonstration of the software much more to the charity's specific needs, rather than just doing a generic demo.
These meetings should be part of the whole procurement process and it is a great way for you to get to know more about a supplier and how it works. It does mean that your staff will need to commit much more time to the whole procurement process, because they could be having the same sort of meeting with 3 or 4 suppliers, but procurements are often a very important process and you may be spending tens of thousands of pounds (even hundreds of thousands), so that extra bit of time the staff do spend can be well worth it. My experience is that the end-users tend to quite like such meetings and feel involved when asked to give their feedback on the suppliers. After all, it is all very well getting some fantastic software but if you feel you can't work with the supplier because of their attitude/approach etc then it is going to make any implementation much harder.
In the second part of this blog I will discuss how I manage the actual presentation from the suppliers.