choosing a vendor partner

In the current climate, working to complete everything from daily tasks to special projects is more difficult than ever before. You may be working remotely and unsure of when you will get access to your physical collections. You may also have realized your records are not as complete as you would like and that’s creating barriers to discoverability. Perhaps you have a growing backlog of work and a team that has been reallocated to address immediate priorities in the library. In order to continue to create access to your collections and get all of the work done, you may need to seek out new vendor partnerships.

As you consider potential partners, it is best to be prepared with some specific questions. Here are five to get you started!

Do you have a solution for my specific needs?
• Many vendors have a ready, out of the box solution that they are able to provide. That is a great starting point for a partnership, but be sure to ask about other clients they have helped with your similar needs. For example, is the provider willing to add or take away from the solution so it fits your needs? Will the potential partner provide a personalized solution?

What will my total costs be?
• Most vendors have standard pricing, but there may be extra fees associated with your project. Beyond the base price for your solution what additional costs will you be responsible for? A few common examples include shipping and handling, any custom programming needs, and taxes.

Can you help us create a project plan to meet our current and future needs?
• Many vendors offer consulting services to evaluate collections and produce project plans that include your specifications, an outline of the costs, and an overall timeline. Some will charge additional fees for this service while others include this as a complimentary part of their project solution. Often this planning can be a barrier to ever starting a project, so be sure you select a partner who can help you from beginning to end.

What are my payment terms and are they negotiable?
• Every company has their standard contract terms and conditions. It is likely that your organization has some local guidelines they must follow in considering payment terms. For example, if a contract states that a down payment is required, but your institution does not allow for that, will the vendor be flexible to those terms? Be sure to share contract guidelines early in the discussion to ensure your vendor partner is willing to meet your requirements.

How often do you communicate project updates and by what channels?
• Communication is the key to success, so it is important to confirm the level of communication a partner will exhibit throughout the life of your project. Be sure to ask if you will have a dedicated contact, how often to expect communication, and by what channels you will receive updates about your project. If a vendor suggests weekly written communication for example, but you would prefer live updates via teleconference, be sure to negotiate that up front so you know your expectations will be met.

Interviewing potential vendors allows you to select a partner that is the most flexible and able to craft a solution that fits your needs. Taking the time to identify and develop strong partnerships allows you to get the best value for all of your current and future project goals.