Vendor Management, Part 2: Vendor Selection (By David Hancock, CEDS)
I’m going to tell on myself and say that I’ve been in this industry since it became an industry. I remember a time when there were maybe a dozen or so service providers (we called them vendors back then…and for purposes of this article, I’ll revert back to that moniker). Now, it seems everybody and their brother/sister does processing and hosting, among other things. However, some do things better than others.
In the many years of being in this crazy space, I’ve learned lots of lessons about Vendor Selection and Vendor Management (a topic for another day). Like most of life’s lessons, I’ve oftentimes learned the hard way. Like the child touching the hot stove, I’ve felt the searing pain of poor decisions.
1. Vendors come in all shapes and sizes. Just like law firms and corporations, vendors fall into 3 categories: Large National/International vendors, Regional vendors, and Local vendors.
a. National/International vendors.
Pros: They are able to handle just about anything you throw at them. They have the people, processes, and technology to handle your crises.
Cons: They sometimes grow too much, too fast so their various divisions may not speak well with one another. You can get lost in the shuffle by being a small fish in a big pond.
b. Regional vendors.
Pros: They are generally more available to you for your needs and try to establish a closer relationship with you as their client/customer. Time Zones don’t normally become an impediment and there’s a decent likelihood that you’ll see your Rep from time to time.
Cons: Some Regional vendors may not have all the bells and whistles of the latest, cutting edge technology.
c. Local vendors.
Pros: Their stock in trade is personal relationships. You’ll get more cookies and visits from these folks.
Cons: Do they know what they are doing? Do they have the tools and experience necessary?
Personally, I try to have a small-ish stable of preferred vendors for services up and down the EDRM. A vendor becomes part of that stable usually by good performance. They usually get their first opportunity from me based on referrals from colleagues whom I respect.
2. Vendors should be selected based on many factors. Some of the criteria/factors include:
a. Experience – References and referrals from trusted sources
b. Technology – Do they have the tools/technology you need (or might need
c. Security – Will your data be safe? What security certifications do they have?
d. Communication – What workflows/processes do they have in place to communicate with you during the pendency of a project/matter?
e. Support – Do they have 24/7 support? What is their policy regarding responsiveness?
f. Team – How are they organized to work on your project/matter?
g. Pricing – Is their pricing competitive?
Though there are other factors, I feel these are the most important ones to consider. You may have noticed I put pricing last. I did so for a reason. Whenever I’ve made (or been forced to make) a decision based only on price, I’ve almost always regretted it.
In the end, the ONLY thing that matters is performance. Do they perform? Do they meet deadlines? Do they communicate along the way? Do they work well with you and your people? Do they deliver what you asked for when you asked for it? Is their pricing “as advertised”? Are there no hidden surprises?
The best vendors are the ones that make your life easier. Finding the right one is achievable by doing your homework.
David Hancock, CEDS, is Manager of Litigation Support & eDiscovery Services at Gray Robinson, and is a guest blogger by invitation for e-Discovery IQ.