Vendor Management Software Reviews: Issues with Pay to Play

Vendor Management Software Reviews: Issues with Pay to Play

Do you trust Facebook ads? Which is more credible, the ad promising massive savings, or or the 4-star customer review detailing what using the product is actually like? Chances are, you’re one of the 81% of consumers who conducts product research before they buy, who trusts real customers reviews over paid advertising any day. The real question is, are we applying this common sense principle to our larger purchasing strategies? Such as our procurement technology and vendor management software selection process?

What’s wrong with the Magic Quadrant?

If you’re only relying on review systems like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, you’re ultimately relying on pay-to-play advertising. Because while yes, analysts do vet applications, companies still have to pay to be considered. This can create several issues for procurement professionals. 

We tackled this dilemma recently when we were invited to add our two cents to a Procurious article on Big Ideas in Procurement in North America. We jumped at the chance, using it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the biggest problems with pay-to-play vendor management software (or any procurement software) review systems:

  • We’re convinced technology assessment methods like the Magic Quadrant will become increasingly obsolete. Because there are two big problems with these pay-to-play systems.
  • First, they’re too niche, and the evaluations are exclusive to platforms that cover every area of procurement, excluding platforms who specialize in part of the procurement process.  Their outdated criteria also make outdated technology look like winners, and the factors aren’t up-to-date with what is actually on the market.
  • The second problem is their hefty price tag, which often excludes valuable options like newer, smaller companies, who might actually offer the best functionality. We believe the future holds more relevant and dynamic ways to find e-procurement solutions. [See the rest of the article here].

We’re not saying industry review systems such as the Magic Quadrant are bad, invalid, or don’t serve a purpose, on the contrary. But they can be limited and shortsighted.

Potential problems with pay-to-play review systems: 

  • They can be too niche, excluding specialty solutions.
  • Evaluation criteria can be obsolete, making out-of-date technology look better than it is.
  • The big price tag puts new market players (who aren’t yet fortune 500 companies) at a disadvantage.

Tips for more well rounded evaluations

To counteract these shortcomings, you can develop your vendor selection strategy with these 3 supplier evaluation tricks.

1. Remember, the customer is king. 
The customer really is “always right.”  They know what it’s really like to use the product and whether the proof is in the pudding. Which is why before you purchase any type of procurement software, you should always try to find a a review.  Smart businesses will post case studies and customer testimonials on their website, because they know it’s the customer who determines a product’s value, not the company, and not biased marketers or analysts.

2. Consider that legacy systems are on the decline. 
The infamous Spend Matters published a great article on Spend Analytics: 5 Trends Happening Right Now, saying that one uprising trend is more companies forgoing legacy systems:

More and more companies are replacing first-generation solutions (even in cases where had they tapped the latest capabilities from their current vendors, they might have achieved superior results) with those that are either more cost-effective, category-specific, incorporate “big data” models or otherwise stand apart from legacy approaches.

3. Try a specialty software.
We all want a one-stop-shop, perfect software. Some combination platforms can be highly effective.

But usually, if you really want the best functionality, you have to choose a best of breed product. Because as software review website Capterra said in their hilarious spoof video: “Why be laser-focused on just 1 thing, when you can be regular-focused on 216?” The question is, do you want a product that’s laser focused on your need, or distracted by a kit and caboodle of features?

What you really need, may not be what you initially expect. For example, not everyone would think of RFP360 software as being “procurement software,” because we don’t offer invoicing, contract management, or spend analytics. But we do specialize in part of the procurement process: the critical piece of selecting your vendors and suppliers (aka the Request for Proposal).

It’s so important to really understand your needs. Because not only may the solution be unexpected, but you also don’t want to pay a legacy suite price tag if you only need 1/10th its functionality.

Bottom line, more well rounded better evaluations mean going beyond status quo industry evaluation systems and quadrants.

Thorough evaluation tactics:

  • Believe customers above all others.
  • Consider that the gold standard system may no longer be the best deal.
  • Get a trial of a best of breed as well a the one-stop-shop platform.

Admittedly, doing more vendor research, is more work, but it also gives you more control. And at the end of the day, you should be in charge of your purchasing strategy, not a couple of analysts.

As RFP360’s marketing director, Barri is responsible for the strategy and execution of branding, content marketing, and demand generation activities. She has more than five years’ experience in marketing leadership for high-growth software companies. Her goals include turning RFP360 into a household name and eating a hotdog at every baseball stadium in the United States.


RD Symms

RD is a senior copywriter at Responsive. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing, content development, and creative strategy. Connect with RD on LinkedIn.

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