Preparing to meet with software vendors for the first time will require some effort to get the most out of the meeting. You should have identified your new system requirements - and preferably documented them. However, if not, then the RFI / RFP Systems Requirements Templates can help you quickly gather this information.
Planning is the key - so below is a list of points to consider:
Choose a date / time when you can focus on the meeting, which doesn’t conflict with work deadlines.
Allow half a day for meeting each vendor. Even if it doesn’t take this long, after the meeting you will want to discuss it with colleagues and write up notes, ideas, thoughts.
Decide who should attend from your organisation - ideally 2 to 4 key people.
Meeting location. If at your offices - use a large enough room with suitable power supplies, flip charts etc and book it for longer than needed. If at software vendor offices - ensure you get there early, as arriving late or rushing will put you at a disadvantage!
It is your meeting - so control it. Draw up an agenda of items you wish to cover and let the vendor have a copy in advance. By all means let the vendor give a brief software overview demonstration - but don’t let it take over the meeting, covering flashy features which may or may not be of use. The software demonstrations need to be focused on your specific requirements.
Create a professional, welcoming atmosphere.
Ensure that you and your colleagues will not be interrupted during the meeting.
Your objective is to ascertain how suitable the vendor’s software is for your organisation (at an outline level), so have a list of key software functionality criteria that you want to check. Use the list of outline software system requirements that you created from your RFI / RFP Template. Go through these one by one. For example, this could include your most important business requirements from:
- the core system functionality
- common functionality across the whole system
- reporting and obtaining information from the system
- system security
In addition, you will want to know:
- the likely software modules which meet your requirements
- the degree of software customisation - typically and likely for your organisation
- the latest software release details and number of releases per year
- confirmation that the software will run over your hardware, database, network - or if not, what has to be changed
- key problems to overcome
- outline software costs
- purchasing / leasing options
- maintenance and support arrangements and costs
- the number of other organisations using the software and details of reference sites
- user group details
- vendor background such as number of employees, turnover, future software direction / developments
The vendor will be looking for information from you eg:
- what your business is about
- why you are replacing your current system
- your new system requirements, particularly any unusual requirements
- the number of users within the relevant departments
- your present hardware, database, network arrangements
- key dates (for the selection process and implementation), critical deadlines, draft project plans
- your budget (even if vague)
- other software vendors you’re considering (even if stating it’s confidential, but there are only 2, 3, X others)
- the next steps / actions after the meeting
After the meeting:
- write up your thoughts, ideas, further questions, notes etc
- consider how closely the vendor’s software meets your outline requirements
- inform the vendor about your decision / next stages of the selection process
For more system selection information visit: Where to find vendors / Vendor selection process - shortlisting / Vendor selection check sheet / Vendor evaluation questions / Software quality checklist