How to Choose a New Tech Vendor: Evaluations, Security and Success Metrics to Consider

Security, ROI and long-term success are among the factors for MSPs to think about when choosing to expand their solutions portfolio with a new tech vendor.

How to Choose a New Tech Vendor Evaluations_ Security and Success Metrics to Consider (1)Adding a new vendor or technology to a solution stack can be a frustrating, stressful move for many MSPs. The selection process can be grueling without the right direction. Members of the CompTIA Community SaaS Ecosystem Advisory Council discussed the topic during a recent CompTIA Community webinar and offered insights on how to approach the vendor selection process and ensure greater success with regards to ROI, implementation and adoption.

Related: MSP Checklist: Factors to Consider When Selecting a SaaS Vendor

Evaluating Vendors

Every implementation project begins with evaluation. Before you can select a vendor, you need to nail down what capabilities you’re seeking and identify who is able to provide those. Finding that magical fit can sometimes be an elusive task, leading to painstaking and time-consuming work. So how do you cut through the noise?

Jason Eberhardt, past chair of the SaaS Ecosystem Advisory Council, advises that you look at several elements during the consideration phase. Make sure you are realistic about cost before you consider any additional criteria.

  1. Cost
  2. Features
  3. Ease of use
  4. Maturity
  5. Reputation
  6. Support

“I don’t care if it does everything that we could possibly want,” said Eberhardt. “If it’s outside of our budget, we can’t use it.” He urges MSPs to draw a strict line in the sand. If it crosses that line financially, he suggests that you simply remove that solution as an option. Next, he suggests evaluating functionality to determine whether it aligns with your needs.

Derik Belair, CEO and co-founder of Augmentt, likes to approach the initial phase with a defined set of requirements. He recommends that MSPs undergo an exercise before ever meeting with vendors to clearly define what requirements the tool should meet. “I find that MSPs will often look for ways to make the solution work even though it’s not ideal because they want to move the process along.” Having the requirements outlined beforehand allows you to undertake a go-no-go approach, where your decision is based on whether the product fits those requirements. To round out your evaluation of the solution, Eberhardt also suggests making sure the tool is user-friendly so that your team is able to adopt it with ease.

The next phase of evaluation has more to do with the vendor as a business, rather than a provider. “Take a step back. How long have they been in the industry? Did they just start three months ago or have they been here for 30 years,” said Eberhardt. “Also, how do they deal with adversity? How good are they at support? How good are they at relationships?” These are all key considerations for determining whether the relationship will be a positive ongoing engagement.

Considering Security

While the above advice is certainly valuable, and budget is always a factor, it is also paramount that you do your due diligence when it comes to security. Michael Slater, head of sales, Microsoft and security at Sherweb, charges vendors to make security part a key component in their evaluation.

“Be smart with your choices,” Slater cautioned. “If something is 80% cheaper than the competition, that may be because they’re sacrificing security protocols. They might not have any security compliance frameworks.”

Slater reminds MSPs that security has to be part of their product evaluation, especially with the steady rise in supply chain attacks. He encourages that it is incumbent upon MSPs to take responsibility for ensuring their equipment remains secure so that they can protect their own customers in kind. A good vendor will “present their security strategy in a clear way,” Slater notes. “And they’re going to be able to help you map that security structure back out to your customers too.”

Defining Long-Term Success

Long-term success can sometime be difficult, but far from unachievable, the council members said. In addition to ROI, success requires a trusted partnership, internal resources for long-term management and scalability.

ROI and Value

The entire vendor selection process stems from a need. You need to be able to supply a certain capability for your customers and implementing a new system will ideally help you do that. But business owners have to consider the ROI of any solution they implement. Panel participants urge MSPs to think about ROI from more than simply a financial perspective. Eberhardt likes to look at ROI from two different perspectives—money and people. “There’s another ROI—it’s the people ROI, it’s the quality-of-life ROI,” he said.

Eberhardt stresses that a solution should not only improve your bottom line, but it should enrich the time that is being invested into a job. If people are spending so much of their time dealing with problems that they can’t perform their job, that increases the ROI of a solution.  “As long as you implement the solution that solves a problem that you’re trying to solve and it gives you time back, that’s ROI,” he said. “Time equals ROI.”

Long-Term Maintenance and Training

Implementing a system is only half of the process. Once you have chosen a vendor, you need to be able to maintain and actually use the system. The first step you take to achieve this goal involves training. Eberhardt suggests training before the system is complete so that your people can get boots on the ground on day one. But more importantly, vendors need to make sure training is actually effective through regular check-ins.

A second concern involves the level of support you can expect from that vendor. You need to ensure that your partner can help provide technical assistance when necessary.

Finally, you need to make sure you have the internal resources to maintain the system. “It’s really important to be honest with yourself and your team to understand what this solution needs to be productive in your environment and what that is going to look like,” said Belair.

It also needs to be able to grow with your business over time. “The worst thing you can do is create an unscalable process, and an unscalable product, that’ll haunt you with tech debt,” said Slater. “Tech debt is real and It is painful when it hits you.”

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