The impact of technology on events is huge and though it can make jobs easier, it can also cause complications. It’s important therefore to choose an event management solution that makes sense for your events. But with hundreds of companies offering you different ways of cutting costs and driving value for your events and attendees, how do you make the right choice? How do you manage the tender process when shortlisting potential providers?
Have a look at the eight fundamental steps you need to take to help you make the right decision for your organisation:
Step #1: Answer the Fundamental Question – Why Do You Need to Change?
The first question that you need to answer is why. Why do you need to change? If there is nothing wrong with your existing solution do you really need to change? It can be easy to become distracted by all the latest bells and whistles but you cannot afford to be tempted by them. Unless of course the benefits they are likely to bring will significantly impact your results.
Maybe the software no longer meets your expectations, maybe the support service isn’t reliable, or maybe your event needs have changed and you are looking for functionality that your existing provider cannot support.
It is vital that you understand the drive behind the change and the reasons to undertake a process such as this.
Step #2: Decide Who Needs to Be Involved in the Project
Having decided that you do need to change, now is the time to gather all the people that need to be involved in the tender process. You need to have people on-board right from the start as this will alleviate problems of gripes and grumbles.
The clearer you are about what you want to achieve, the more you will be able to identify who needs to be involved in the project. As well as your finance, IT and procurement teams, who else needs to be involved? You have to understand what functionality you want and what makes sense and get the right team members involved.
The other important factor is good communication with all team members throughout the duration of the tender process. This involves ensuring that there is ‘buy in’ for your project from everyone involved; from the executives in the different departments within your organisation to the techies who will be carrying out the roll out of the project and the events team whose work will be using the system on a daily basis. Everyone needs to understand what it is you are trying to achieve and why. You will be in a better position to identify potential problems and avoid last-minute surprises.
Step #3: Do Your Market Research
Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of finding out what is available. There are after all, many options in the market.
The event tech market has matured over the last few years. Have a look at guides for event management software (ex. The Good Event Management Software Guide from EventMB) where you can see a quick shortlist of key features. You need to go from hundreds of suppliers to say just ten.
Read articles in the trade press, go to tradeshows and investigate testimonials. As much as looking at the product you will also need a sense of the company culture as well.
You have probably spoken to the suppliers’ sales people, made enquiries and looked at product videos. From this you will have gathered a first impression. What is your instinct telling you about the supplier? Remember first impressions count. Who made it on your list?
After this process, you should finally have a list of ten providers (or whatever number you decided on – this is your long list). From your long list you can now move to the next step.
Step #4: Shortlist Your Suppliers
From your long list you will need to make a shorter list of around three suppliers, which you will do a lot of assessment work with.
These are the suppliers who you will involve in the tender process. You need to look into key reasons why you shouldn’t start a conversation with some suppliers. This may seem counter intuitive but it is important to keep examining where the potential problems with them could be.
Look at things that really matter for you. This could include:
1) Data security & compliance
2) Delivery of support services
3) Speed of support
4) Integration capabilities (APIs etc)
Of course, it is up to you to determine the key criteria that is right for your organisation.
Following this exercise, you should have your shortlist of three suppliers.
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Step #5: Take an Objective Approach
At this point the management of the tender process should be handed over to an outside person (ex. procurement manager) and you contribute to that as a subject matter expert.
Procurement managers are good at keeping distance. If you do not have one, then work with someone quite closely who can help you remain objective. Get someone else involved, talk your thinking through. Make sure you cover everything: security, culture of your organisation, budget and functionality. Continuously make notes.
Set up a number of tender criteria and rate the supplier. Functionality may be the most important factor (so 30-40% of score come from that). Money could be the next biggest issue, say 30% of the overall. Then you need to rate for other aspects such as data security, compliance, support, SLAs, hosting etc. This scoring system will help you narrow down your choice to two suppliers.
You may have a preferred supplier at this point in your head. It might be self-fulfilling prophecy where you like an organisation more than the other two. This can impact your views and that is why it is crucial to remain objective.
Ask the suppliers to address functional scenarios to show how their software works. Create meaningful situations. What are the common problems areas around events? How does their solution help you solve your problem?
At the end of this stage, you want one or two suppliers left.
Step #6: Test the Working Models
It is essential that you see and test the working models that the suppliers have put together for you. Have a think about who needs to be involved at this stage. Clearly you will need some users in at the meeting to raise any issues but also for them to get used to a different system.
It is imperative that you record any changes needed as you are getting ever closer to making your decision on the supplier to go with. You want to make sure that everything that was previously discussed will actually work.
Be honest with your suppliers. Explain that you in the proof of concept stage with another supplier too. This is when it becomes very real. This is the last chance for the supplier to really prove what they have said and show how interested they are in getting the right solution for your organisation.
Step #7: Evaluate your Service Expectations
Service expectations will be hard to evaluate as so far no service has been provided. But service is a critical factor and you will need to make an assessment based on your teams’ experience of dealing with the supplier(s) to this point.
Do they really understand what your organisation needs? Are they actively listening? Are they just doing a sales job or are they trying to help provide a solution that is right for your events.
Ask yourself can you work with this supplier? Are there any communications problems? Check the compatibility of your working relationship as well as the functionality of the solution.
And of course ask to speak direct to customers of the supplier to find out how their experiences have been.
After that well you need to make your choice and then move to contracting.
Step #8: Get the Contract Right
Getting the contract right is the final last step and it is such an important one. This is the stage when people fully commit. The Legal team have to sign off contract. Your IT team might sign off IT security and support arrangements. Your Finance team need to sign off. This part can take some management. It’s a small stage in terms of time, it’s big in terms of consequence. If you’ve done the process right up until this point, you should go through it quickly.
Allow plenty of time for the contract to be reviewed. Allow enough time for the back and forth as you can be sure there will be plenty of it. A legal person will comb through every statement. Allow time for this.
There you have our right steps to help you in choosing the best event management software for your organisation. Do not rush the process, remain objective and involve the right people and you will find it goes a lot smoother than you thought possible.
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