Due Diligence in Vendor Selection: Laying the Groundwork for a Strong Relationship
The first installment in this series described the process of evaluating your current vendor relationships to determine which of your concerns are not being met. In this article, we're assuming that either you're in the first phase of vendor consideration or you've made the decision to consider alternate vendors, and will be going through the process of interviewing and choosing new vendors. We’ll present some specific items to include in your due-diligence checklist for choosing vendors appropriately. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all checklist. Each business will have a slightly different checklist, based on its specific business goals, needs, and expectations. Vendor selection, which is an intricate courtship dance of hopes, expectations, and offers, sets the scene for the subsequent relationship. Every business wants a reliable, low-cost, and scalable solution when seeking vendors. In radiology, many times, the product or solution that we are looking for will play a critical part in our daily workflow. It is preferable that we have a friendly business relationship with the vendor we rely on in those critical times. In the world following the 2008 financial bailout, a key concept that is being revisited is that of categorizing and understanding risk. This includes leveraging for upside risk and protecting against downside risk. The same concept applies to any strategic business venture, such as choosing an important vendor. A good place to start is to ask the two big questions: What do I want/need out of this vendor relationship? What can go wrong, against which I must protect myself?
Amin HolmesMost people and businesses are accustomed to answering the first big question. They are diligent about collecting and analyzing that information. They send out requests for proposals to various vendors, detailing their wish lists of features and benefits that will help them achieve their business objectives. Generally, they think that they can make good decisions about which vendors will help them achieve many of their business objectives. Examples of strategic thinking related to the first big question include comparing/contrasting the features and benefits of the vendor's product or service with those of competitors; understanding the support process offered by the vendor; setting up regular status meetings, updates, and reports (during implementation and afterward) for smooth implementation and postimplementation phases; understanding the relationship between your existing workflow and the vendor's product or service; and understanding expectations for how your company can be a good customer (payment schedules, acting as a reference, and so forth). Those specifically evaluating RIS/PACS vendors may also find it helpful to:
- verify the written processes and procedures of the prospective vendor;
- ask specific questions about staffing (quality assurance, development, support, and similar points);
- require a demo period with live data;
- inquire about release schedules (automatic updates and downtime required);
- ask specific questions about image storage and retrieval (DICOM and disaster recovery); and
- understand the costs associated with data migration.