Donna Fluss is the president of DMG Consulting and has authored this post as a guest blogger for the Interactive Intelligence Blog Crew.
I am frequently asked about how to select a hosted contact center solution. I find the question interesting, as the process should be no different than selecting a premise-based application. Hosted offerings (also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud-based solutions), are contact center systems that are delivered and financed differently from premise-based offerings. Here are the recommended steps for making any contact center selection:
- Research the contact center market to get to know the current vendors and their capabilities. The formal approach is to issue a request for information (RFI) to as many as ten different vendors. The RFI will ask the vendors to tell you about their capabilities, differentiators and pricing. To identify contact center vendors, visit DMG’s library or publications at www.dmgconsult.com, email me at donn...@dmgconsult.com, or search the Internet. It’s important to look for a mix of premise-based and hosted solutions. [If you do not have the time for a formal RFI process, then ask a vendor-neutral industry analyst firm such as Gartner, Forrester or DMG, which solutions to put on your short list.]
- Put together a contact center selection team with participants from the business, IT, and possibly someone from finance.
- Perform a needs assessment to identify your organization’s business and technology needs.
- Assess the RFI responses and identify 5 vendors to include in your request for proposal (RFP) process. Take the opportunity to learn about the market from the vendors. Invite a few of them to do a product demonstration. (If it’s a hosted vendor, expect the demo to be delivered via the Web.)
- Convert your identified needs into an RFP document. Set up the RFP to allow your organization to easily compare the vendor responses. Be sure the RFP requests three references for environments similar to yours – technically, functionally, and similarly sized. It’s also advisable to include your company’s contact in the RFP. Ask vendors to review the contract and note any objections as part of their RFP response. This will significantly reduce the time it takes to negotiate the deal.
- Issue the RFP to the 3 to 5 vendors and give them two weeks to respond. Set up a central contact for all vendor inquiries and to prevent vendors from trying to sell directly to business managers.
- Assess and compare vendor responses, and select three for in-depth review. (While price is an important element of the analysis, it should not be the deciding factor.) Be sure to speak with the vendor references early in the process. References are often more open than you’d expect, and are willing to share their lessons learned. (This step may help you rapidly identify the three best candidates.)
- Conduct a detailed review of the three solutions, including: an in-depth product demonstration; evaluation of each company’s financial stability; review of product roadmaps; critique of implementation, integration and ongoing support processes; and a comparison of price, return on investment and total cost of ownership.
- Select two vendors as finalists and begin negotiations with your first choice. If this vendor is unrealistic or unwilling to meet your company’s needs, move to the second vendor.
- After selecting the vendor, identify the right financing arrangements.
It’s important to note that it should have no bearing on the selection process whether the vendor’s offering is hosted or premise-based. DMG encourages end-user organizations to find vendors who meet their technical and functional needs and then determine the best way to finance and implement the solution. However, we appreciate that there are times when hosting/SaaS is a requirement because of limited capital budgets or the desire to have a solution for only a short time. If this is the case, follow this same process, but only include vendors who offer hosted contact center solutions.
If you have any questions about this process, please contact me at donn...@dmgconsult.com or 973-325-2954.
Donna Fluss, President
DMG Consulting LLC