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Choosing the Right Vendor for You

May 29, 2015

With declining budgets and shrinking staffs, service outsourcing has increased in Higher Education. In most cases, schools can cut costs and increase productivity, while implementing robust solutions to internal and external operational challenges. This allows staff members to focus on more mission-critical functions in the Registrar’s office. Outsourcing is an important decision, as your institution can get locked into an agreement that makes it difficult to change vendors and take more time to get another solution implemented.

But all vendors are not created equal. Some promise you the world but only deliver a portion of what you expected via a long and tedious implementation process. A potential partner may give you a couple references to call to inquire about their satisfaction with the services being offered. You must be wary of this practice. No business is going to give you contact information for dissatisfied customers. It’s common sense. You need to invest some time and do some due diligence in the marketplace. Who uses this company that is not a reference? Have customers left this vendor? Why?

Deciding who to go with based solely on price is also risky. A lower price could mean that you are getting fewer features or a reduced service level. Only your colleagues know whether a service provider offers an excellent value proposition. So, lean on them for advice and references. The level of customer service your office receives is key as well. Your questions must be answered immediately. You cannot afford to fill out an online ticket and wait days for a response. Partners that also answer student inquiries help your office create even more operational efficiency.

Bells and whistles are great but does the core solution operate correctly? Everybody likes the latest and greatest but if it’s just fluff and doesn’t elevate the solution’s primary functionality to a higher level, then it’s basically useless. An outsourced-solution must securely and efficiently streamline processes in your office to be of any benefit.

Effective vendor relationships are built on trust. It’s a big deal. You must feel comfortable with your vendors and their representatives. They are the face of their company, but are also an extension of your office. You should consider whether or not they represent your way of doing business. Some vendors engage in "big data" models that rely on repackaging transaction data and selling it to institutional consumers.  In such cases, the transaction itself may not be the primary focus, but rather a means to create an additional revenue stream unrelated to the service your signed up for. Thus the solution may not receive enough development attention and lack functionality as a result. Your vendors must be focused on automating your processes and not be concerned with unrelated repackaging of your data.

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