Vendor Selection, The Right Way

This entry is part 16 of 18 in the series Interview Tom Marine Gets Right Upfront

MM: Then you said, “Okay. Let’s go find vendors, then, who can automate this new idealized workflow.”

TM: Yes. Well, you know, a lot of that was going on simultaneously, too. By then, I knew who the vendors were.

MM: Right.

TM: Yes.

MM: As I recall, you started off with 15 or so vendors, in terms of your not short-list, but your medium-list. Right?

TM: Right. So I probably looked at 100, and we cut it down to 15 for a more thorough review.

MM: At that point, as I recall, you brought them in and showed them the current and future states. You asked them to speak to how they would automate the future state. Is that right?

TM: We only brought in four. We sat them down in the room after they gave their presentation. We set them down in the room and said, “Okay. Here’s our flow. Now we’re going to leave you here for a while. When we come back, we want you to present to us how you can affect our flow.” So we really put them on the spot.

MM: Not just “affect our flow,” but implement it.

TM: Implement your solution. How is your solution going to integrate with our flow?

MM: So what came out of that?

TM: Well, some things that we were able to gauge. To say, “These people are telling us the truth. These people speak our language and understand what we do. These people are not trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.”

For instance, one group would say, “Oh, yes. We can do all of that. We’ll just make it work.” That’s not what we wanted to hear. We wanted to hear the truth.

One person would say, “You know what? You’ve got a pretty good solution here. We can automate this and automate this and automate this. We’re not sure about this automation here. You may have to keep this as a manual process for a while, until a new version comes out. Or we can implement it as a part of our software.”

Then there were people that would talk about heuristic attitudes and speak a different language. We knew that they didn’t understand the catalog business. So when we started talking to people that not only talked our language and understood what product groupings and SKUs were—and making sure that there was an image that could be saved in a directory as a JPG and the high-res image in a similar place. We understood that they knew what they were talking about.

So it was almost an interview, as well.

MM: Yes. And then you selected a vendor.

TM: Well, we actually went through two stages of that. We had them back to. We actually took some partial data and then presented to us. We cut it down to two, then, after the four. Then each of those two came back and presented to us with our data.

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