We care about many relationships – with loved ones, and with the professional relationships we have with staff and colleagues in our fields of expertise. We have certain expectations in relationships. And who is not looking for trust in a relationship? Though it sounds a little contrived, the same care about relationship holds true for the relationship you have with companies contracted for your business needs – be it a fundraising system, case management system, Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system, Association Management System (AMS) or other software that helps support your operational processes.
In talking recently with more than 10 vendors as part of a software selection project for a national non-profit organization, I was quite disappointed at the transactional nature of at least three of vendors – and these three are no small peanuts in the industry. Their behaviors created an immediate red flag. When making such a significant investment in money and people-time for the implementation, it is critical to know that the vendor can be trusted in a relationship for the long haul – we are talking 3 – 4 years, maybe even 10 years.
When looking for Software as a Service (SAAS) (SAAS is software deployed over the internet that the vendor typically hosts or recommends a hosting facility), or for other software solutions, there is the official discovery of business requirements, documentation of those requirements, and the prioritization of needs for comparison with the vendor’s product. This is necessary to understand whether their solution will help solve your business challenges. In addition there is the official, yet more intuitive, discovery of the relationship. Many of our clients care about the relationship aspect as much as the solution – there is wisdom in this approach. Here are a few questions to keep in mind if you are going through a similar process, or plan to be in the future:
- Does the culture of this vendor company have any blend with our organizational culture? Do I feel the vendor is interested in our mission?
- Does the vendor demonstrate interest in wanting to help us make improvements in our processes?
- Does the vendor freely tell me about their product, and does so without using pressure to purchase?
- Does the vendor act respectfully towards me and my staff? Do they engage in genuine small talk and seem interested in learning more about us?
- Does the vendor get back to me in a timely manner? Is it same day, by the next business day, or at the very latest 2 business days?
When you are making your final decision, consider what weight you are giving the relationship in your decision making process. Consider your expectations and what behaviors you are comfortable with, what you can tolerate, or what is unacceptable and clearly not a good match for your organization. Relationship truly matters.
Katherine Mowers is a Senior Project Manager with the Community IT Innovators Consulting practice.