Blais took everything into consideration, and followed every Web link the users pointed her towards. Then she developed a massive spreadsheet showing the functionalities each system had to offer and reviewing the list of pros and cons previously defined. Armed with this information, the team sat down as a group to distinguish between necessary and merely desirable features, and to consider any trade-offs involved in incorporating some of the merely desirable ones.
Together, they then selected a list of seven vendors to send the initial list of requirements to, making sure first that they were interested in winning the business and could meet a defined date for submitting responses. Next, the team considered vendor responses at a round-table discussion where they reviewed the "new" features and functions that each vendor was highlighting within their product, while eliminating vendors whose responses did not meet the basic requirements.
The users and IT group then developed a supplementary list of questions and requirements for the remaining vendors concerning additional product functionality, training details, the technical specifications, pricing, licensing information and implementation costs, as well as the schedules and the support offered by each vendor.
Once the vendors responded, the selection team reviewed all the responses and narrowed the choices down to three products. "I don't remember any disagreement," Blais says. "By the time we put the questions together we had already weighted the various features. So we were all on the same page, since we had been working together on all aspects of this project."
Next came the on-site demonstrations or Webcasts of the products for both technical staff and users, with vendors told to allow plenty of time for questions. That tactic ensured the vendors had technical staff on hand during every demonstration. After the demonstrations, the IT group met to discuss the products' infrastructure, components and fit, while users reviewed their features and functionality. "When we got down to three, all of them managed content quite well," Blais says.
"One was more of a Cadillac than the other two, but the price was a little higher as well.
"In consultation with the users, I then prepared a list of questions that I was going to be asking the vendors' references. The same questions would be asked to each of the references. I let the users know that, if they had any specific issues that they wanted to discuss with other end users of the product, I would try and arrange for that as well.
"The reference contacts were very informative and helpful. All of the reference responses were documented and then shared and discussed with the entire group."
The decision to go with Percussion Software's Rhythmyx Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution was unanimous. Blais says users were particularly taken with Rhythmyx's de-coupled delivery architecture, which appeared capable of boosting performance and eliminating the CMS as a single point of failure, as well as some unique features that were not available from the other vendors' products.
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