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The Proof is in the Pudding
When evaluating software vendors, make sure that a Proof of Concept (POC) is part of your process. We just completed an intense vendor assessment between three BPMS (Business Process Management Suite) vendors. All three vendors have great products and plenty of successful customers. It wasn't until we entered the Proof of Concept phase when one of them separated from the pack.
In our POC we made the vendors start with a blank screen and build a sample process flow that we modeled on paper. We chose a model that exposed various features and functionalities of the BPMS tools. We where looking for ease of use, how quickly each vendor could complete the POC, and how the tools integrated with our existing .Net services.
What we found is that only one of the vendors could actually complete the POC in the one day event and that same vendor was the only one who could even figure out how to connect to our services. In fact, it was so easy for this vendor that we gave them additional services to connect to and they were able to accomplish that also.
The lesson learned here is you need to do more then just submit and analyze RFI's and RFP's. Vendor demos are not enough either. If we had not asked them to do a POC we would have selected a different vendor who could not easily integrate with our infrastructure. This would have raised our Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and reduced our ability to improve speed to market.
When it is all said and done, the proof is in the pudding!