Before you sign: essential steps to vet an IT vendor

Before you sign: essential steps to vet an IT vendor

Five critical questions you should ask all of your IT vendors and suppliers.

1. Always interview several vendors

Because different vendors can vary widely in terms of cost and quality, it's important to talk to several vendors to compare their offerings. Talking to a variety of vendors will give you different perspectives on the issue you are trying to solve and perhaps uncover different solutions that you that hadn't considered before. At a minimum, pick at least three different vendors to interview.

2. Ask for references

Genuine customer feedback is always a good barometer of how well a company performs. As such, don't be afraid to ask your vendor for a contact list of all of their customers, not just a chosen few. With this list in hand you can select specific companies to call, which is more likely to result in unbiased feedback upon which to make your decision.

3. Request a trial period

When purchasing large-ticket items such as CRM software, for example, many vendors will allow customers to try before they buy. The trial period will give you time to use the product to see how well it performs in day-to-day use, as well as the quality of support you can expect from your vendor.

4. Vet your vendor

Don't just take the vendor's word for it – be sure to do your own checks to verify their licences, third-party certifications and professional accreditations. Make sure their licences and insurance are active and up to date, and review their public records for any complaints that may have been filed against them.

5. Get your SLA in writing

Always get your SLA (service level agreement) in writing, and more importantly ensure that all parties understand and agree to it. In addition to performance expectations, your SLA should cover exit strategies and any financial responsibilities in the event that you need to change vendors or your vendor fails to live up to their end of the agreement. Before signing on with any new vendor, taking some time to ask the right questions can reduce your risk significantly. While taking the necessary steps to find the right vendor requires time and effort on your part, it can save you even more time and money down the line, greatly reducing your risks before you sign on the dotted line.