Like most industries, ours is no different in the number of vendors that service our needs. We perform our due diligence like anyone else and arrive at a selection based upon research, discussion and references, among other things. References seem to be big in our industry in terms of which IT vendor to ultimately select.
This may be a function of our individual personalities or our firm personalities. I’m a research fanatic when it comes to significant expenditures on the home front, sometimes to the extent of over-analysis. The Internet has fueled my needs for finding and comparing not only competing vendors, but also what their customers are saying – so many people are Yelping
about everything! When this happens, the knowledge obtained can sometimes put one at a level beyond some introductory sales associates. While this might happen when you are shopping for a new washing machine or new power tools for the garage, it should not happen with high dollar IT expenditures. Salespeople there are often teamed up with those on the technical side to provide support in the wooing process. Even with this tag team approach, your IT staff is trained to look at vendors objectively and consider all options before proceeding, and not just be convinced by a splashy presentation with lots of oohs and ahhs.
How much though, after all this research, do the actual references the vendors provide matter? Do you check them like you would check the business or personal reference of a potential new employee? Often times, the references we focus the most on are those that come from other CPA firms, specifically like-sized firms for which is the best test of “Has XYZ product/service been proven to work in a firm like ours?” Ultimately, this is where we all want to get – answer this question and you got us (almost). While other CPA firm references are significant, don’t discount the others. Contact all the ones provided by the vendor, but there are just too many routes via the Internet to seek out vendor references that might not always have the most cheery things to say.
Whether it is my money or the firm’s money, I want to make sure that it is spent wisely. As I’m writing, my washing machine is starting to squeak. I should just have it serviced, but those new front loaders sure are nice…