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In the ever-evolving world of technology solutions, we’ve all reached the point in the cycle when we ask, “OK, what’s next?”  Sooner or later, the technologies and services we depend on are no longer up to the tasks, scale or simplicity needed. Whatever the reason, sometimes a gap develops between current capabilities and the critical business needs.

With the growth in the technology sector and the evolving landscape, it can be daunting – or at the very least complex – to know where to begin in choosing a technology solution. At the enterprise-level, purchases can affect thousands of employees and countless workflows (not to mention millions of customers).  Furthermore, technology is often intertwined with services, and really, you are hunting for a technology-based solution.  With all of this, technology change must not be taken lightly. To ensure you are fulfilling the right needs with a technology or service purchase, consider the following steps:technology growth

  • Needs Assessment – Before you even start looking at vendors or writing the RFP, figure out the business needs and understand the gaps that may exist. Be careful not to make the mistake of simply looking for a replacement (or next version) of the current systems. Think outside of the box!  Your organization’s actual needs could have likely changed. Furthermore, advances in technology may have evolved to bring new capabilities that could propel some beneficial changes.  With all that potential, the first, most crucial step, is to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Prioritize the Requirements – There is a difference between the critical business needs and the features that would be helpful, but not crucial. A phased approach may be necessary to acquire all the features and usage capabilities.
  • Requirements – Build a set of requirements that would fill the current business needs. In most cases, companies will package those requirements in a formal Request for Proposal (RFP). Respondents to that RFP should be able to address the following concerns:
    • How does the vendor’s technology fill the gaps explicitly listed?
    • How will the vendor support the technology – both at install, but more importantly throughout the life-cycle?
    • What are the ancillary features beyond the core requirements?
    • What’s the roadmap for delivery, set-up, and implementation, and how will that integrate into the current processes and systems?
  • Consider Ongoing Care/Support – Questions and concerns arise when using any new technology. At some point, vendors will need to provide help. Be sure to understand the customer care offered and the typical turnaround time for issue resolution, and how the vendor manages their own changes and versions.
  • Security Requirements – In the current climate, businesses must make security a primary concern. There have been countless news reports of hacks and breaches that can be a nightmare for any business. Ensure that the chosen solution can adhere to the security standards for the business and make it clear in the RFP the liabilities and risks that you expect the vendor to assume.
  • Implementation – More often than not, it is best to follow a phased-approach when implementing new technology. The RFP should request an integrated project plan that slowly adds functionality to the new technology as a way to limit risk. It is more work in the interim to keep old technology running as the new technology is ramping up, but it can reduce risk and it allows your organization to work as a team with the vendor and build a stronger partnership.
  • Understand Pricing and the Payment Methodology – Services can often be charged on a volume-basis (e.g., usage per pay period). As part of the RFP, include your expected volumes and scale and require that all vendors respond to the volumes in a standard way – so that you can do an apples-to-apples comparison across vendors.   Volume-based pricing can be great if you know your volumes and those volumes are consistent. Otherwise, a fixed pricing option may be ideal. Some companies even provide a middle ground between these payment structures. There are many options, so it is important to understand your volumes to get the right price.  Don’t be afraid to benchmark with comparable services – or even component services.  Invite vendors to respond with both fixed and variable pricing options, and be open to creative pricing structures, but make it clear that the vendors need to explicitly state what is included and what is not, and provide the total cost of ownership.   Your own financial analysis will need to include additional costs that you may incur, which could vary with each vendor solution, and factor that into the “best-value” decision.

In Practice

To provide a world-class contact center experience, a large federal agency needed to meaningfully improve efficiency and quality of service offered in its contact center. Specifically, the client required a strategic, multi-year roadmap to enhance its contact center services and offer the scalability, flexibility, and portability necessary to handle its more than 20 million annual call center interactions.

Working closely with the client, The Northridge Group conducted a comprehensive assessment of the agency’s strategic path and planned functionality. Northridge identified short- and long-term improvement areas in call handling, workforce management and end-user capabilities, infrastructure, and operational processes. Northridge then created the RFP and designed a structure for evaluating proposals—making it easier for the agency to determine the best partner for its contact center needs and establishing a foundation for long-term success.

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