Several approaches are available when it boils down to acquiring unified communications or CCaaS solutions and evaluating new vendors for your organization. Window shopping, completing a request for proposal (RFP), a request for quote (RFQ), in addition to a request for information (RFI), to name a few. Allow me to elaborate.
Window Shopping occurs when a customer obtains a list of vendors, calls them, and requests a demo or product review. Beware—this is the least effective method. While it can be beneficial, it usually results in a vendor proposal that doesn’t accurately compare to other vendor proposals—leaving the customer with an apples to oranges comparison. Pricing, feature and functionality, terms, etc., tend to vary across the board, making it virtually impossible to compare these elements.
The most formal approach is an RFP, which can be extremely helpful for larger organizations or larger purchases because everything is in writing, from customer requirements to vendor responses. Additionally, the vendor covers all the issues, including company backgrounds, product/service descriptions, solution design, feature/functionality (detailed Q&A’s within each), training, support, implementation process, and more. Completing an RFP allows a customer to get responses from multiple vendors. It also ensures that all answers compare apples to apples to simplify the decision.
An RFQ is a basic outline of the requirements and quantities that each vendor can use to quote their solution and is appropriate for small to medium-sized purchases. This RFQ can include more details (similar to an RFP), or it can be more simplified, primarily for pricing purposes.
RFI is another approach to utilize. But I won’t cover that here in the interest of time. The key here is to find the appropriate method for your project and ensure you have the expertise to illustrate your operational and technical needs. Then you’ll have the best chance of getting consistent vendor responses so that you can accurately compare pricing, functionality, service level agreements, terms, etc.
Finding a list of manufacturers and their value-added resellers or partners to bid on your project can be tricky. You can search online, ask for advice from other businesses in your industry, check with an analyst, or hire a consultant who can guide you to the vendors that best fit your needs.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the value of interviewing references. If you ask the right questions, you might be surprised by the results.
Once you select your vendor (or top vendors), you’ll need to negotiate a contract—primarily the pricing and terms. When it comes to pricing, include all pricing components, from one-time to monthly to support, to the moves, adds, changes, and disconnects (MACD) rate. You should also ensure that you’ve fully negotiated a price. We’ve negotiated hundreds of thousands in additional savings even after the initial “Best and Final” RFP pricing offer. Make sure your terms spell out performance clauses for training, testing, acceptance, etc. Finally, negotiate the financial payments and penalties to make sure the vendor performs.
Assess What You’ve Learned
Purchasing a new CCaaS or UCaaS system can be a positive move for your organization, especially with so many options in the cloud. Knowing how to navigate your way through the process is helpful. Make sure you have the right team, expertise, and your objectives are clear. Determine the best acquisition approach, whether RFP, RFQ, RFI, etc. Identify the top service providers and the best resellers, negotiate the pricing fully, as well as the terms, and be sure to call those references before you finalize the deal. With the right approach, you can have a better UCaaS/CCaaS system in your enterprise.
To learn more about unified communications, UCaaS, and CCaaS, visit Enterpise Connect this September 27-29 in Orlando, Fla. Register now with promo code NJAL200 and receive $200 off your registration.
Tim Proctor is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.