Have you ever been involved in an OSS vendor selection process – or for that matter, any software selection that involves selecting between multiple vendors? If you haven’t, if done correctly the process ranges between 4-8 weeks and should start with the buyer (carrier) creating an RFP that contains important categories that the vendors must address. For example, the carrier will usually include detailed system requirements, product architecture requirements (e.g. scalability), detailed use cases / scenarios that the software vendor must demonstrate they can support with their product, etc., etc. The vendors are typically given 4 weeks or so to respond.
When RFP responses are returned, the carrier then begins the meticulous process of reviewing each of the vendor’s responses. Typically, a weighted scoring system is defined and then used to grade the vendor’s response for each category; for example:
- Vendor’s product architecture / SDK
- Vendor’s out-of-box functionality
- Vendor’s configuration and customization capabilities
- Vendor’s support for custom use cases
- Vendor’s integration capabilities
- # of customers using the product in production
After several meetings, conference calls, product demonstrations, etc. the decision usually becomes clearer…and when you think you’ve selected the right product...pat yourself on the back...just one more hurdle to get through. What you need to know is this…your work is only 50% complete once you’ve selected the product best suits your organization. The other 50%....who’s going to implement it?!
I stand by what I just said; you need to put an equal amount of importance on selecting what company (Systems Integrator) will implement the solution. Do not for a second assume the owner of the software product is by default responsible for the delivery. I can go on for days about why that is a bad assumption. It’s becoming common for telecommunication carriers to purchase a software product from one company only to utilize a different company for the implementation. Do your homework on who are the best companies who can deliver the solution for you.
Gone are the days within the telecommunications industry where a carrier purchased a software product from a ‘software provider’ – and then selected a systems integrator to implement it. Nowadays, thanks to Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A’s) large companies who have experience in, for example, BSS are purchasing software companies in the OSS market in order to dominate and monopolize the market. M&A’s always result in change – and in some cases it’s for the worse. Key expert resources leave the company, methodologies change, priorities change, new culture is adopted, etc.
I feel like I can go on and on with this blog, but I’ll leave you with the following suggestions if you find yourself in a position of selecting a software vendor:
1. Do your research on the technical product itself….making sure it will support your business for the long-term.
2. If you select a product that is owned by a major global SI, make sure to contact multiple existing customers – call them and ask specific questions about strengths and weaknesses, capabilities to deliver, issues, etc. If they do not provide this info…proceed cautiously.
3. Look into smaller / boutique consulting companies…while they may be small, they usually are very capable, cheaper and very flexible
a. If you select a smaller vendor…verify you are covered legally within the terms and conditions of software owner…they typically tie-down the carrier with ridiculous terms and conditions.
b. Remember, flexibility in your delivery is always a good thing.
4. Remember, you’re the client and paying for this….don’t take any BS.