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Choosing Consultants and Vendors

When searching for the right consultant or service provider, a little work beforehand can pay off in the end, saving hours of time meeting with providers and reviewing Request for Proposals (RFP) that are not the right fit.

Using four main characteristics, retailers can narrow the field and meet providers with the best potential, according to AMR Research. While service provider skills and qualifications are crucial, it is also important to know your own company and assess your own internal capabilities before seeking outside help.

The four main groups and important questions are as follows as per AMR Research:

Drivers and Owners: What are the primary business drivers and desired outcome? Is it top-line oriented or a cost saving initiative? Who owns the problem and its resolution? Is it corporate, Line-of-Business (LOB), IT or some combination?

Scope: How many divisions, processes and employees may be affected? In which geographies? What is the timeline? Is this a project or a potential managed services/outsourcing arrangement, or is knowledge transfer a key feature? What is the budget? Has the budget been reviewed and approved?

Capabilities: What can or should be handled internally versus externally? How strong are internal skills in the categories relevant to this engagement? A few to consider are: strategy, project management, change management, process and IT architecture, systems integration, application development and customer service. If internal skills are strong, can we or should we spare those people for this initiative? Do we have enough hands?

Legacy and Policy: How does legacy technology affect this initiative? Will the service provider need to support legacy consolidation or migration? What is our control preference for existing and future process and technology affected by this initiative? Should we own it all? Or should we work with a service provider that can outsource or manage it for us?

Using these questions, an initial list of prospects can be formed, but AMR recommends narrowing down the list even further by applying the following high-level evaluation categories and questions:

Industry: Will broad industry expertise suffice or are specialized sub-sector skills required?

Functional: Is this a single functional area or does it require expertise across multiple functions?

Package: Which specific packaged applications are involved? What are the likely functional and technical requirements?

Technology expertise: Which technology skills do we require? Tactical or strategic?

Geography and delivery: Where will this engagement be delivered? Is there a portion of it that can or should be conducted offshore?

By going through these questions using an Excel format, retailers can narrow the list to between three and five candidates, according to AMR. This is a more manageable list for RFP’s.

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