This is the 2nd in a series of articles related to ensuring that you select the right agency management tools. In the last article, we noted how often we speak to agencies who have issues with their implementations and implementation partners.
We also explained that this was not uncommon and that studies found that more than half of implementations were unsuccessful. Finally, we explained the three things that agencies should do before they speak to new suppliers.
In this article, we run through the steps that the agency should take when once they have completed their preparation.
Go to market
If your current system meets your needs, there is no need to go further. However, this is a good opportunity to see what else is out there now that you have gone to the trouble of collecting your requirements.
The best way to do this is to do some research to see what is out there. Google is a great tool but you should check to see what your competitors are using. This is where your staff can give some insight.
You can also use an RFI which I referred to above. RFI is an acronym for “Request for Information” and is used to write to a number of suppliers with some high-level requirements for a system. It should not be necessary as you should be able to get have a list of at least 4 or 5 companies to look at. There are lots of suppliers for agency management tools on the market but, honestly, for an agency, there are only 4 or 5 that are sufficiently tailored for your business without needing a huge budget.
The document that you must send to your shortlist of potential suppliers is the RFP – “Request for Proposal”. This document must contain as a minimum:
- Details about the supplier’s background, headcount, financials (if possible), and current clients (preferably in a similar industry to yours) implementation process, support organization, product development roadmap. This may sound like a lot of information but you don’t want to implement a new system more than once a decade so the last thing that you want is to pick the wrong supplier. I get it, you work in advertising so you like to work with mavericks and the new kid businesses but, in my opinion, there are some things where it’s better to go for a tried and trusted partner.
- All your requirements and ask them to confirm which of these their software meets. Tip – beware of the ones that say that the requirement can be met via customization. The problem with this is that customizations are not part of the standard product so you will have to pay the supplier every time that you upgrade. An ex-colleague of mine used to call customizations “the gift that never stops giving” but the giver is the customer, not the software supplier.
- The document should also include the cost information for the software. This doesn’t need to be a formal quote, but you also want to make sure you have the budget
- Finally, there should be a deadline for when you need the responses.
Once you get the responses, it’s a matter of reviewing the responses and inviting 2 (maximum of 3) to come in for a system workshop. It shouldn’t be more for the reasons below.
Workshop vs Demo
I was careful not to use the word demonstration in point 4 above, but rather workshop. This is because a demo is typically the supplier presenting all the cool stuff that their agency management tools do. While that’s great, they typically do not demonstrate how the system will meet your specific requirements.
A workshop, on the other hand, is typically a longer session during which you provide the supplier with some dummy data and ask them to demonstrate how their software meets your requirements. That allows you to tick off all the “must-have” items on your list of requirements that they said that their product meets. There are no guarantees in this world but the chances that the software will not meet your requirements following this are slim.
I appreciate that references are not very common in Latin America but there is no better way to get a good feel for a supplier than speaking to its existing customers. Ideally, this should be without the supplier present “marshaling” the client. I say this because there are all too many companies who will put the logos of impressive-looking clients on their sales material and websites but in fact, have only started implementations and/or the client has not had a great experience.
You should ask the supplier to provide you with 2 – 3 references who you can speak to and who can collaborate what the supplier said on the RFP and in the workshop
At the end of this process, you should be in a position to select your new ERP system, confident in the knowledge that it’s the right system and the right implementation partner. All that remains is the finalization of the commercials.
I appreciate that this seems like a lot of work, but it’s nothing in comparison to the pain and suffering of having selected the wrong supplier and either having to do it all again or tolerating a system that’s suboptimal for the coming year.
A little about Agency Soft
We at Agency Soft have 30+ years of working with professional services companies, 20 of which have been working with agencies. We are the Latin American partner for Deltek, a subsidiary of Roper Technologies (quoted on the New York Stock Exchange).
Deltek is the world leader for solutions for professional services businesses. It has a range of different solutions for professional services businesses with agency management tools specifically developed for agencies such as WorkBook & ConceptShare. Deltek has thousands of users in the agency space.
If you want to know more about what Agency Soft and Deltek can do for your agency, please contact us.
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