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You Say RFI, I Say Riffy: Why You and Your Vendor Need to Speak the Same Language

Written By: David Clark
Published On: January 17 2008

When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Software Selection Pitfalls
Quick, what’s the number-one pitfall of the software selection process?

If you said “budget, buy-in, and boardroom politics,” you’re wrong. Because that’s three pitfalls. We’ll get into those another time.

Miscommunication, on the other hand, will torpedo your software selection project faster than a Mark 46.

Here’s a great example, from Fatal Flaws and Technology Choices, a TEC article by Olin Thompson and P.J. Jakovljevic:
“One meat processor (which will remain nameless) recently embarked on an application software project. Of course, catchweight was a must-have for its business. The company asked the software salesman if the software had catchweight, and after having to explain the concept at a great length to the salesman (a bad sign), the salesman said “no problem.”

It later transpired that the salesman thought that catchweight was only a simple pricing issue. The meat processor did not probe into the details, was satisfied that catchweight was “available,” and signed a contract.

The result: the project overran the budget and missed the schedule significantly.… The meat processor had to write a significant amount of custom code just to get pricing working correctly.”

If you and your software vendor are not speaking the same language, you risk similar delays, if not outright lawsuits.

You should also be sure to navigate the tricky paths of “vendor-speak” with caution. If a vendor is trying to sell you on a “solution” that will “leverage” your “knowledge assets,” you may want to run the brochure through a plain-speak translator first. I highly recommend Bullfighter for just this purpose.

How to Avoid Software Requirement Miscommunication

I don’t recommend you sit down with the salesperson and drag your list of requirements line-by-line through Merriam-Webster. That would just be dumb.

However, it’s essential to make sure that you and the vendor are on the same page.

Which is of course where TEC’s RFP templates come in. TEC RFP templates are created by TEC industry analysts in conjunction with the world's leading software vendors, including SAP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Infor, Epicor, Lawson, etc.

These lists of criteria give you a full view of all the features and functions currently available for the software you’re looking to purchase. They allow you to determine which features and functions are required for your organization in a document that provides common ground between vendors and buyers—and eliminates the risk of misunderstanding.

Mea Freakin’ Culpa

Even hard-core editors can fall victim to the curse of slippery language. In my blog post Won’t Get Fooled Again: The 5 Worst Buzzwords in the CRM Industry Today, I merrily “summarized” Glen Petersen’s article A Lexicon for CRM Success.

Wrong choice of words, I think. Merriam-Webster agrees with summary (“an abstract, abridgment, or compendium especially of a preceding discourse”), but in the interests of clarity, it would have been more precise to say that I abridged Glen’s article.

It may not sound like much, but if a similar imprecision crops up in your software selection process, it could cost you much, much more than a moment of embarrassment.

Need help fighting the bull? Sound off below.
 
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