I have had the good fortune (well, good most of the time) of having been involved in many, many vendor selection processes for eCommerce technology.* I’ve seen this play out from every conceivable side of the table: as a business leader at a large retail eCommerce company; as a technical leader charged with implementation; as a solution provider (vendor) supplying eCommerce technology to clients; as an independent consultant advising large eCommerce clients, and now as an analyst supporting the process through written research and advisory consulting.
In the course of that work I have learned that the typical RFP-driven vendor selection process produces poor results. Clients find the technology or services are not what they expected, vendors are frustrated, and projects are delayed and costly. We have all been there.
With this in mind, we set out to solve this dilemma; we sought to discover and articulate a better way. The result is what we call:

“STEP: Scenario-based Technology Evaluation Process.”

STEP places eCommerce technology selection into the context of your business challenges, opportunities, and approach. By following STEP you will understand how well the tools, interfaces and capabilities of a solution really support your business objectives and goals by asking vendors to illustrate their solutions in your specific business context.
STEP does not throw the baby out with the bathwater; you will still collect a lot of information from vendors in the form of RFIs or RFPs, but you will be far less reliant on them to make your decisions. STEP adds the critical dimension of scenario-based evaluation in a defined and refined process that we know will lead to better outcomes. In the report, we have laid out how to run your own STEP process, including defined process steps, examples of scenarios and guidance on how to create them, how to form your evaluation teams, sample scorecards, and how to fit STEP into a larger process.

About The Research — Getting To STEP
In order to develop this enhanced process we researched and looked at a few key areas:

  • We worked with clients to understand what worked and what did not work in vendor selection. We wanted to find out the characteristics of a good selection process, and wanted to develop an approach that leveraged those characteristics effectively. We also discovered what clients wished they had done after the fact, after they found themselves down the wrong path.
  • We worked with vendors of technology solutions and services. Vendor selection is a marriage of client need and a right-fit solution. As such, the best processes will allow the client and vendor to find the best match and the greatest opportunity for successful outcomes. We worked with vendors to understand what the characteristics of their most successful client selection processes were, where they were a great fit with a great client — not simply where they made a sale.
  • We examined our own processes for vendor evaluation. Forrester conducts a significant amount of vendor evaluation work. The best examples are the Forrester Wave™ reports, such as the “B2C eCommerce Platform Wave.” We did a deep dive into what works best in our own evaluations of technology and solutions vendors, where we get our best information.
  • We worked side-by-side with clients in their selection processes. In our work we are often engaged in supporting and advising clients through their eCommerce technology selection processes. Clients approach us to help with requirements and an RFP. But does that stop short? Through work with clients we have been able to refine our research and advice on selection process best practices, answering questions and refining the approach throughout.

The result of our research was STEP, and we are thrilled to share it with you now.

How To Learn More About STEP
Learn more and get valuable tools by accessing the report here. Clients are also welcome to join us for a Forrester teleconference on Tuesday May 25, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time/10:00 a.m. Pacific Time where we will discuss the research, the approach, and answer questions. As always, Forrester clients with access to inquiry should feel free to set up time to discuss via phone with us one-on-one.
Thanks, we are really excited to share this research with you, and I look forward to your comments and questions.

*By eCommerce technology I am including solutions such as platforms; site search; analytics tools; content management tools; product content management tools; order management tools; social tools; rich imaging, etc.