“I’m sorry, but I have to catch the bus so I can pick up my daughter,” said the sales rep. “Can we continue this tomorrow?”
“Of course,” I said, laughing. “I guess you can see why I became a journalist.”
I was vetting two “finalists” in the selection of a vendor for our company and, as my wife will tell you is my nature, taking the process very seriously. At one point during a call with one of the candidates, the rep said, “I’ll just cover this part at a high level,” to which I interrupted, “Actually, I prefer to go into the detail, so let’s do that.”
My litany of questions seemed to have no end and, with each of the reps, I eventually hit on one that prompted a response of, “I’m actually not sure, let me check on that.”
When it comes to making decisions of sufficient scale and impact, one from which changing courses is not only inefficient but expensive, I will do the necessary homework to, as closely as possible, ensure the right path is selected. I will force myself to remain patient until one of the choices emerges as the clear winner. In the case above, extensive investigation — replete with a homemade Excel spreadsheet comparing key product features and price — showed one organization lacking what I considered a piece of stakes-to-play functionality. Winner by default — Company A.
Though HITECH deadlines have made this more difficult, when it comes to selecting software to automate your clinical environment, you must show the same patience, doing your homework until a clear winner emerges. Imagine the right answer lies under the haze of a dirty window — each site visit, each customer reference checked out, each user demo, constitutes another application of Windex and associated vigorous scrubbing, bringing the right choice ever-further into focus. With investments in the millions, you need that level of clarity to move forward.
On the other side of that fence live those vendors you are deciding amongst, who must also exhibit patience. I recently interviewed John Glaser, CEO of one of those organizations (Siemens Health Services). Having spent decades on the customer side as CIO of Partners HealthCare, Glaser knows the pain that can be inflicted when a vendor lets customer demand override product readiness.
When I suggested his customers were clamoring for Soarian Ambulatory now, he responded:
” … if you have to turn it on this March of 2012, we’re not ready; we won’t be ready in July 2012. But to the degree that your selection timetable works with ours, or to the degree that you can stay where you are for a year or two, and to the degree that your vision … (matches ours), I would say I think it is worth the wait, and the wait frankly isn’t that long.”
I always love it when vendors tell customers something they might not want to hear, because that reveals honesty. If everything is yes, yes, yes, sure we can do that, no problem, of course — you can bet there’ll be some unpleasant surprises down the road.
Paul Masson (through its pitch man Orson Wells) once famously boasted it would “sell no wine before its time”. It sounds like Glaser won’t sell Soarian ambulatory prematurely and, as those the reps I interrogated found out, I won’t make a decision, no matter how many questions it takes, before I’m ready.