IV. Discerning Excellence: Evaluating Prospective TEM Providers

Begin the vendor evaluation process by figuring out exactly what you’re looking for. What your current TEM provider does for you today may be nothing like what they did when they first started serving your organization. And, what an industry leader can do may be even more different. Due to the recent convergence of data and voice technology, your needs may have expanded significantly. Create a thorough inventory of capabilities: list everything your TEM provider does that you need them to do, as well as everything a TVEM provider could do that you’re currently not receiving. Be sure to involve all internal stakeholders in the vendor selection process by gathering their perspectives on their technology needs. This includes executives, directors, line-of-business managers and even front-line workers; anyone who uses technologies impacted by TEM may have valuable input for you. Keep in mind that communications technologies no longer serve purely operational purposes. When leveraged strategically, they can powerfully enable competitive advantage. Listen carefully to leadership, and understand their ambitions.

Will You Need to Create a Request for Proposals (RFP)?

The answer to this question usually depends upon your own organizational policies. Find out what requirements are in place. If you do need to undertake an RFP process, look for a pre-existing RFP you can use as a template. In many cases, the RFP you used when you engaged your current provider can be reused after an update. Analyst firms, such as Gartner, also have RFP libraries you can draw upon when crafting a new RFP.

Selecting a New TEM Provider

Once you’ve created a list of the TEM capabilities, you’ll need to translate that list into a set of quantitative and qualitative criteria by which you can evaluate candidates.

Questions to Ask a Prospective TEM Provider

  • What performance metrics can you provide?
  • Will particular performance levels be guaranteed in the service-levelagreements (SLAs) you offer?
  • What has your error rate been in the past?
  • Will you create a proof-of-concept so that we can try out your services?
  • Can you provide a demo of your system?
  • What kinds of reports do you provide?
  • Do these include all the metrics covered by the previous provider’s reporting? Are there any additional ones?
  • What guiding principles and best practices inform the way you do business?

Though you’ll want to be certain that you’ve included enough prospective vendors in your pool of candidates, you don’t want to include too many. The more providers you invite to submit a bid, the more complex the decision-making process will be. Two or three providers (assuming they have a reputation for quality) should be enough. Ask colleagues which TEM providers they’re using and what they think about the quality of service. If several of your industry peers mention a particular provider, they’ll likely be a strong candidate. If you’re not using an RFP, bring your list of reasons for making a change to each sales conversation you participate in. Also bring a list of the services you’re receiving now. You can immediately eliminate any candidates that don’t meet these minimum requirements. You should also evaluate each prospective provider for “fit.” This is an entirely subjective criterion, but it’s an important one. You’ll be working closely with your provider, and they’ll be handling financial matters on your behalf. How well will your team get along with theirs? How productive will the working relationship be? Keep in mind that you’re looking for more than a vendor: you’re seeking a technology expense management partner. Once you’ve asked the prospective vendors all of your questions, you should have an idea of which one would make the best partner for your organization. Now, it’s time to negotiate. Carefully review the terms and conditions in the contract to be sure that this provider won’t have the same shortcomings as your last one.

V. Getting Your New TEM Provider Up to Speed: A Quick Guide