While having criteria for selecting a vendor to provide off-the-shelf materials is a key practice for success, it is also important to document your experience with each vendor over time against your most important selection criteria, and to manage your relationships with vendors. Here are some tips from articles published in the past in Learning Solutions.
History of engagement with each vendor
- Were there any changes to the vendor's reputation during the time of the engagement?
- Changes (positive or negative) to the way the vendor is seen within your organization
- Changes (positive or negative) to the way colleagues in other organizations see the vendor
- Changes (positive or negative) to the way analysts and reviewers see the vendor's offerings
- Who were the references used when evaluating the vendor's qualifications?
- Were the references from the vendor's current customers?
- Were the references from your own purchasing or procurement team?
- Was the vendor easy to work with and reliable about meeting deadlines and answering questions?
- Who was your primary contact within the vendor organization?
- Were you able to get support from key people in the vendor organization (including at least one senior manager)?
- Did the vendor team grow in understanding of your company, your business, and your industry during the engagement?
- Were you able to meet with vendor representatives at conferences and trade shows?
- Were the meetings satisfactory?
- With whom did you meet?
- Did you ask for demos of the course offerings before purchase or subscription? How did the vendor respond to the requests?
- Did the vendor’s methodology fit your needs or expectations?
- Did the courseware match the description on the vendor’s website?
- Was the pricing of the courses reasonable? Was the vendor flexible (within reason) about details?
- Did the vendor’s courses work well with your LMS? If you used the vendor’s portal, did it support your curriculum management needs?
The hardest question to answer: Did you treat the vendor well?
The reward for treating vendors with respect is that your RFPs will get a response that represents each vendor's best. You don't have to fail many of these points to ruin your own reputation with the vendor community.
- Be selective. Don't shotgun your RFP to a large number of vendors. If a vendor detects there is little or no chance that responding will result in serious consideration or acceptance, that vendor will probably not waste their time to create a response.
- Follow through. If you promise something to the vendor, deliver it: information, referrals, reviews in social media, or anything else that's legal and ethical.
- Did you “shop” the vendor’s proposal around to other vendors, looking for a cheaper price for the same content?
- Did you ask for something for nothing? Asking for a quote does not put you at liberty to ask later for big chunks of free intellectual property that did not appear in the Request for Proposal.
- Stick to your original set of deliverables and Statement of Work. Avoid scope creep.
- Be clear about your budget and your timeline. Don’t send an RFP out until you have actual management approval and funding.
You may find this free ebook from The Learning Guild helpful, whether you are looking for OTS asynchronous learning or any other development work: 98 Tips for Selecting and Working With eLearning Providers.