This is part of a series of posts which is based on a 3-hour hands-on workshop I offer on this topic. Be sure and check out the preceding post:
Technology Solutions Planning in Libraries: Overview
Technology Solutions Planning in Libraries: Part One – Develop the Project Plan
Technology Solutions Planning in Libraries: Part Two – Establish a Planning Committee
Technology Solutions Planning in Libraries: Part Three – Gain Market Intelligence
Technology Solutions Planning in Libraries: Part Four – Requirements Gathering
Technology Solutions Planning in Libraries: Part Five – Types of Solutions Available
Technology Solution Evaluation
This is the time to start comparing your requirements to your vendor matrices to focus your options and to gain more in-depth knowledge about a few possible selections.
Create the Short List
Begin narrowing your choices to the proverbial “short list” of 5-6 solutions which are suitable for your organization. Narrow your list by price, architecture model (client-server vs. ASP), by platform (Mac vs. PC), etc. Create a new matrix with a “short-list” of the top solutions.
Test the Demos
- Many software programs are very different to use than their marketing copy implies
- It matters little if they have great references or company history, if the product is too difficult to use, it’s not a good choice
- Confirm that they have the features and functionality they claim to have
Investigate Hosting Environment
If you are considering a hosted solution, you will want to ask some pointed questions about the vendor’s facility. This is where the server holding all of your library’s valuable data will be housed. Ask about:
- Climate Control
Research Vendor Viability
- Library or technology journals review many software solutions
- Hoover’s and Gale Business & Company Resources Center provide company financial infomation as well as company officers
- Create a list of questions to ask about each possible technology solution
- What is the vendor’s/solution’s place in the market, (reputation)?
- How popular is the software, (market share)?
- How long have they been in the market/How long has the technology been around?
- What are the types of products produced in the last few years?
- Are there upgrades still being developed for the system?
- How is the response time by technical support?
- Number of staff devoted to product development?
- Number of staff devoted to customer support?
- Number of new-name sales in the last few years?
- Number of installations?
- What were the profit and gross sales figures over the last couple of years?
- Each vendor should provide you a list of at least 3 references
- If there is no vendor, speak with others who have used the technology solution
- Read case studies if available
- Create a list of questions to ask each contact
- How long have you been using the system?
- How intuitive is it?
- Is there a lot of downtime?
- How quickly does technical support department respond?
- Were there any hidden costs?
- Did you need staff training?
- What do you dislike about the system?
Test Tech Support
- Call tech support with a question
- All but the smallest companies will give a ticket number
- Track how many hours/days it takes for someone to get back to you – this is what you’ll face with that vendor
Create Solution Evaluation Packets
Following the above procedure should have whittled your short list down to 3 or 4 solutions. Organize all of your gathered information about each of them into packets for yourself and your committee. These represent the vendors which are recommended to receive an RFP. Include in each packet:
- Summary of company information
- Product marketing copy
- Summary of references and case studies
- Summary of hosting environment conditions
Next: Request for Proposals