Monday, March 20, 2023

Vetting the Vendors – How Businesses Can Benefit from a Technology Bake-Off

By Prangya Pandab - September 22, 2022 4 Mins Read


Although technology bake-offs initially seem to be similar to pilot trials and proofs of concept, they are, in fact, distinctly different. The objective is to thoroughly simulate each vendor system in the company’s environment to ascertain which solution meets the criteria and performs the best.

Technology vendors usually prefer to stay away from bake-offs. Technology bake-offs demand significant time commitments and vendor employees to support them, which is one of the reasons.

Being given a contract by a buyer entails much more than just having the highest Request for Proposals (RFP) rating because each solution is tested in a simulated production environment and compared to at least one other solution. It is better than succeeding in a proof of concept.

Not every buyer enterprise can command a technology bake-off because of the time and human resources vendors must commit to. Typically, bake-offs favor very large businesses hoping to strike sizable and lucrative deals or smaller businesses that a vendor wants to attract as it develops and establishes its clientele.

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Why Bake-offs are Beneficial for Buyers

Technology bake-offs allow businesses to road-test their new products in their real work environment with the help of users and IT. It’s an opportunity to discover the benefits and drawbacks of the product in one’s environment.

If they decide to buy and use the product, the company has invaluable experience. When a pre-production product is finally introduced and presented, they will already know which systems and business processes they would want to update, thanks to the bake-off.

Buyers get to know the vendor during the bake-off process and learn what kind of vendor support they can expect if they agree to the product. The buyer lowers the chance of making a poor choice by getting to know both the vendor and the product up close and before making a final decision.

Of course, the drawback is that IT and business users must devote resources to facilitate the technology bake-off.

Testing Period

A bake-off might last anywhere from a few days to two weeks, depending on the product being tested. Although extended bake-offs have occasionally occurred, it is best to avoid them wherever feasible. Mission-critical systems should be the only ones included in technology bake-offs. After the bake-offs are over, IT and end users should meet to review the results and choose a final provider.

Elements of a Good Bake-Off

Technology bake-offs have the potential to be highly effective in reducing the chance of underestimating an implementation or selecting the wrong solution. However, they only succeed if they are meticulously planned, products under review are rigorously compared to business and IT objectives, and users, IT, and vendors are all actively involved in the process.

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Here are the top four components for a successful bake-off:

Clearly State the Business Objectives and the Desired Results

Businesses that ask potential vendors to participate in a bake-off should have a well-defined business case or justification for doing so and a list of performance goals that each tested solution needs to meet or exceed. These metrics need to be impartial and quantifiable. Participating vendors and internal employees should be aware of the business objectives and the performance standards that must be met upfront.

Set Up a Bake-Off Team that is Fully Dedicated to the Project

Bake-offs need time and money to prepare for. When bake-offs are held, the bake-off team—a combination of vendors and corporate employees—should be fully dedicated to the event until it is over.

Prepare and Train the Bake-Off Team

Many participants, particularly those from within enterprises, will not be familiar with the concept of a bake-off. Project members should receive a full briefing before the start of a bake-off, including information on the project manager. Interactions between the company staff and participating vendors should occur daily throughout the bake-off. Communication with the participating vendors should be open and transparent.

Limit the Potential Vendors

Bake-offs should only be held after businesses use an RFP and other preliminary evaluation procedures to reduce the pool of potential vendors. A bake-off typically only comprises two products or vendors, which are then compared against one another under real-world operating conditions. The organizations must be serious about both products but want one last in-depth assessment before making a decision.

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Prangya Pandab

Prangya Pandab is an Associate Editor with OnDot Media. She is a seasoned journalist with almost seven years of experience in the business news sector. Before joining ODM, she was a journalist with CNBC-TV18 for four years. She also had a brief stint with an infrastructure finance company working for their communications and branding vertical.

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