The pitch stage is arguably one of the most important aspects of the entire self-service portal procurement process. Whilst it’s the vendors chance to demonstrate what they can do for you, it’s also your opportunity to really test how well they understand your requirements and your organisation.
There are so many different factors involved in choosing the right portal for your organisation - features and functionality, price points and platforms, in particular. By the time it comes to the pitch, you’ll have already identified what elements are most important to your organisation, it’s now the vendor’s turn to convince you that they’re going to be the right fit for you.
Know your brief
You should prepare for the pitch process just as much as the vendor will: you need to know your brief inside and out, so you’ll be able to ask all the right questions in order to get the most out of the process. Providing that you’ve given vendors enough detail in regards to your current systems and infrastructure, you’ll be able to test their knowledge on more specific areas that are particular to your organisation.
In theory, your potential vendors should answer everything you need to know in their pitch. But in case they don’t, you should be prepared to ask these key questions that will give you a deeper insight into the inner-workings of your potential vendor and how your working relationship may develop.
Set the agenda
Housing organisations often set a rigid, fixed agenda with multiple points and sub-points to cover. The vendor will usually be asked to provide general information about their organisation and then run through how their solution will meet specific general requirements. Whilst a very prescriptive agenda helps you to make a direct comparison between vendors more easily, it creates less scope for vendors to demonstrate that they’ve really understood your needs.
A looser agenda, where the vendor can bring their own structure, sets up more of a challenge. You’ll be able to see how well they’ve understood your brief based on the points they choose to focus on during the pitch and you can fill in any blanks with questions at the end of or during their presentation. Hopefully, the differences between each vendor’s approach to delivering the pitch will offer an additional layer of insight which may help to inform your final decision.
Ask the right questions
There will naturally be questions that come up during each vendors pitch based on the content of their presentations, but what specific questions can you ask as an IT professional to extract the most useful insight into whether a potential vendor is a good fit for you?
What do you need from me?
his is a somewhat broad question that has considerable secondary questions that could spring from it. The vendor can tell you everything they’re going to do for you, but it’s vital they are able to highlight what they’ll need from you and your organisation, whether that’s additional resource, time or documentation. The answer to this question will help you establish a sense of what kind of working relationship you’re likely to get with this supplier.
You’ll already be aware of who is going to be responsible for the implementation and integration of the portal from your team, so find out how much involvement they’re going to need to have with the vendor too. Can your project manager support them with co-ordinating the development process? Is there pre-existing documentation that they need, if not supplied already? Will they provide an informal SLA with internal teams to keep the project moving.
How do you want to work with software providers you’ll need to integrate with?
Ideally, you want all of your third-party software providers to work together collaboratively in your interests - from your CRM to your payments system to the portal vendor themselves. The key to successful integrations is often as simple as good communication, so you should ask potential vendors what their attitude is to working with other suppliers who’s platforms they’ll be integrating with for your portal.This can open up a dialogue as to how you will work with them moving forward: will you act as the middle-man or facilitate an introduction between suppliers and then check in periodically as work progresses?
It’s also a good idea to find out if they have any pre-existing relationships with other of your existing system vendors that you may be able to benefit from. If they have experience working with other providers in the past, that may be a plus point for your project.
Who will be responsible for what?
From the outset, it’s handy to get an idea of the vendors views on who will need to do what during the project. What kind of work is going to be involved on your part? From the set-up process to ongoing updates and upgrades, will this sit with their team or yours? This kind of information is essential to gather at the early stages of the process in order to effectively plan resource allocation across the project lifespan.
What’s your approach to training?
Implementing a new portal will require some level of training across departments. You could ask the vendor if they provide any kind of training on the system, or if there are any resources available online to help your team learn quickly.
In theory, the portal should be relatively easy understand and use, however you may run into technical issues that aren’t so easy to solve yourself later down the line - how does the vendor see these being resolved? After following the triage process, your IT team may need support from the vendor to deal with internal queries and answer frontline questions. Is this available?
How do you prevent cyberattacks and data breaches? What do you do if it happens?
Security is always going to be one of your top priorities so you need to ensure your vendor follows the correct protocols and has systems in place to prevent cyberattacks and data breaches. Does the vendor carry out vulnerability scanning? If so, how often? Has the platform been Pen tested? What general measures are in place, for example SSL or secure authentication methods?
Your portal is going to be exposed to some pretty sensitive customer data - so you need to know what happens to it. Is it stored somewhere? If so, how long for? And who will have access? How is the data transferred from your CRM to the solution? In today’s GDPR-compliant landscape, they should have answers for these queries. Your tenants’ data is of huge importance to you as an organisation and you are responsible for making sure it is kept safe.
How is the portal hosted?
What is the infrastructure of the portal hosting platform? What software is used? All of these types of questions depend on the type of software the vendor utilises, whether it’s proprietary, bespoke or an SaaS.
One of the most significant issues you need to be aware of is what happens if the system goes down - are there back-ups or contingency procedures that the vendor will carry out? Do they monitoring tools to track performance and alert to any emerging performance problems?
Check out our Self-Service Procurement Toolkit to make sure you’ve got every aspect covered!