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Vendor Selection

By Steve Jones,

Today's editorial was originally published on Apr 29, 2007. It is being re-run as Steve is at SQL Server Connections.

How you you pick a vendor for a product?

Here's how I've seen it work at some companies. A contract is coming up for renewal or a new need arises and some IT guys are asked to make a recommendation. So being good professionals, you do some research, download some evals, run some tests, and then try to pick the product that works best for you. "Best" is hard to define since the product needs to do a good job, meaning meet the goals set for it, but also be something you want to administer. You write this up and send it to your boss.

Then about half the time, the product you hated gets selected. Even if you gave it a bad review or thought it couldn't do the job. So why is that?

My guess is that often someone played golf with someone else, or takes them to dinner or other entertainment and the decision maker makes the decision that's best for them personally, not necessarily the company. I hate to be so cynical, but I see it happen over and over.

I could be wrong and maybe one of these strategies is in place. Maybe someone is making a more strategic long term decision that it appears to be from the perspective of the IT worker. I'd like to think so, but I see so many other decisions made for the short term and not necessarily for the benefit of the company.

Choosing vendors to be partners is hard, especially since they vendors are trying to sell software and make their numbers, not necessarily be a great partner for your business. And it can get worse if you are not a large customer. I have friends in the sales side of software and they readily admit that the smaller customers suffer since they just don't produce enough revenue over time to receive the custom support they've often been promised during the sales cycle.

I'm very much a believer in buy software and then maintain it yourself. And I think you can do this with Microsoft and an ERP package like SAP as well as you can with an Open Source package.

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Steve Jones