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Vendor Selection
More than 60 vendors dot the BPM landscape today, with new ones appearing regularly. Established software makers are releasing new BPM products and reinventing themselves, and recently merged vendors are trying to integrate their products, for better or for worse. Each of these vendors will say it offers all the BPM a company will ever need. Unfortunately, that's just not true. Some vendors provide dashboards, and while these are an important part of BPM/workflow, an enterprise will most likely need more than that. Others provide raw tools which, when combined with the appropriate domain expertise (provided by an organization's management team), only approximate a packaged BPM/workflow application. Still others tout their "unified BPM/workflow suite." When a company buys some of these systems and brings them in-house, "unified" is probably not the first term that will leap to mind. The bottom line is that while the marketing and product demos are remarkably alike, the products are not. An organization can easily buy the wrong solution, or at least a suboptimal one.
There are even more considerations related to vendor selection: buying the right modules, skipping the unneeded modules, and buying the right number of seats. With so many vendors vying for attention, only the ones with the biggest marketing budgets can rise above the noise and get their message heard. The vendor that's best for a particular organization may have chosen to invest more in product than marketing and thus may be overlooked during the evaluation process. When caught up in the excitement of a BPM/workflow initiative like that workflow solution, companies tend to buy more than they need today (or may ever need), and most vendor salespeople won't discourage this tendency.
Finally, the vendor evaluation process itself isn't something most companies handle well independently. The process often degenerates into a political, emotional, and somewhat arbitrary exercise that's disrupted by trivial product differences and not focused on what really matters. Decision-makers get so frustrated that they end up exclaiming: "I've had enough -- they all seem similar. Let's just pick one already. How bad can it be?"
Another serious concern is the cost in time and dollars. Left to their own devices, most companies can spend anywhere from three to nine months just selecting a solution (and some get so confused during this process they decide not to invest in BPM at all). When initiating an evaluation process, organizations need to consider the cost of employee time allocated to it and time to payback.
Consultants with demonstrated expertise in vendor selection should have a deep knowledge of a broad range of vendors, including an understanding of the vendors' future plans. This enables them to determine whether the vendor selected will be a good fit for current and future business needs. The consultant should bring an optimized and proven methodology to the process that sidesteps politics and vendor favoritism, and their involvement should require only one to two months. Organizations should keep in mind that true vendor selection consultants don't implement specific products, nor do they partner with particular vendors. Doing so would hamper the impartiality necessary for this work.

Quote Comments by brucefrazier