Evaluation & Acquisition Process
“This blog is the first in a series about the process of purchasing a new business telephone system.”
I am the owner of Teledynamic Communications, Inc. a business communications solution provider based in the San Francisco Bay Are. Over 25 years in the business, I have provided technical consulting to hundreds of customers on business phone systems, both hosted and premise PBX. I figure it’s time I give back to the business community by writing a business communications buyer’s guide.
When undertaking a pivotal task such as purchasing a new telephone system, it is necessary to do a thorough analysis of your company’s specific needs. A formal evaluation and acquisition process will ensure quality results and a solution that meets your expectations. However, I’ve observed that some of the customers we work with on projects, disregard or downplay the importance of the buying process and end up paying too much, selecting the wrong technology or the using the wrong vendor. Most business telephone solutions are long term commitments, so the mistake lives on for years. It is the goal of this blog series to share our knowledge on how to evaluate and choose the best solution possible.
The best way to build the criteria of what will work best for your company is to develop firm answers to the following 8 questions. Once you fully evaluate these key areas, you’ll be ready to purchase a business communications solution that addresses all of your company’s communications needs.
1. Why Are You Looking?
While the most frequent answer is to replace an obsolete phone system there are actually several reasons you could be in the market for a new system and could affect your final choice.
- Outdated Technology—This means that you are running into issues when it comes to finding adequate service, support and parts.
- Specific Features—If your current system is simply lacking features necessary for the efficient operation of your business, it may be time for a new solution.
- The Bottom Line—After a system is put into place, your costliest telecommunications expense is the monthly telephone bill and it’s for the most part, accepted as a general cost of doing business. Often times, decision makers don’t realize that a change in the system could actually save money on the monthly phone bill.
- VoIP—These days, with everyone relocating business services to the cloud, it might make sense for your company to employ a virtual PBX and join them.
- Expansion—If your company is in a state of growth, you may have outgrown your current PBX.
- Relocation—When moving to a different location, it might be a good time to replace your technology instead of sinking money into moving an old system.
2. Does Your Decision Have a Time Frame?
Customers buying a business communications solution take anywhere from two to three weeks up to a year. Most often the delays are caused by prioritizing the acquisition process lower than day-to-day business activities. Many times, buying business phones does not have a deadline. Thus it gets put off, sometimes long enough that the market has changed enough that the process re-starts from scratch.
On the end of the spectrum, a system failure or pending business expansion or relocation will focus any buyer.
3. Are You Looking at Any Specific Criteria?
These days, most phone systems offer the same features. It’s more a matter of if you’d prefer to purchase it as a product or a service. Regardless, there are still plenty of considerations to keep in mind, such as:
- Up Front Price
- Total Cost of Ownership
- Vendor Location & Reputation
- Brand Recognition
Defining and weighting these parameters narrows your focus saving both you and potential vendors lots of time
4. Has a Budget Been Established?
This can be hard information to part with, because of the fear it will be used against you when it comes time to make the purchase. However, having a budget in place beforehand can often save you time when it comes to looking for solutions within your given price range. Plus, vendors know that most customers are looking at multiple solutions and a solution with an inflated price won’t be considered.
If you don’t have enough information to create a budget, contact several vendors and tell them that you are looking to create a budget. Make sure to ask for a range of pricing. Most providers will share round numbers and you’ll get the sense of costs. Do know however, that most everybody will be quoting their low end solution in hopes of remaining in the game when you become an active buyer.
5. Do You Have Any Preferences?
Would you prefer an on-site Premise PBX or a cloud-based virtual PBX? Both have their advantages, which we’ll be discussing in one of our upcoming blog posts.
6. Have You Already Considered Any Solutions?
At Teledynamic, we always want to know whom our potential customers have already had conversations with. This information gives us a good indication as to the price points encountered and the technologies considered. For decision makers, this information can also ensure vendors are responding with the right solutions. They might even be able to tell you if you’re limiting your search in any way.
7. Do You Have A Preferred Provider?
Typically, customer loyalty rests with the equipment manufacturer, the product brand or the local value-added reseller. Do you care about name brand recognition or are approaching the project that all providers are considered? In the past it was much easier – there was Nortel and Avaya, both with huge market share. Today it is different as there are lots of choices, with no dominant players.
8. Is There an Implementation Time Frame?
If you’re working against a hard deadline, it may effect the time you have to vet potential vendors or compare different technologies and therefore change your evaluation process.
So, as you can see, there’s much to consider prior to purchasing a new system and it’s important to have a game plan in place to ensure an efficient process and results in a business communications solution that will suit your business’s needs and budget.
Be sure to tune in for our next blog post, “Business Needs.”