Real Conversations, Real Solutions

Apr 10, 2019

You walk into a conference exhibit hall, a vast ballroom full of vendor booths hawking swag and big promises. Which way do you go? Do you make eye contact, or stroll around pretending to be absorbed in conversation with another attendee or your phone? It’s hard to feel like this space is an opportunity for meaningful engagement. But despite the depth of information available online, an in-person conversation is a great way to get a sense of a company and the people who work there.

When everyone says they “do analytics,” it’s difficult for college presidents and leadership to be sure that a company is the right fit, both technically and personally. After all, you aren’t just buying a solution, you’re buying into a relationship with the company and its employees. There’s only one way to find out if it’s the right fit. Next time you attend a higher ed conference, try engaging the vendors with a few tough questions:

What experience does your team have working directly in higher ed?

It’s important to gauge their understanding of the day-to-day business processes, politics, and pace of the higher ed world.
 

Do you sell software, provide services, or a combination?

Implementing new software is never just about the software. What kind of support is available during and after implementation? Is the company incorporating client feedback to improve the solution?
 

How will your solution address my institution’s unique pain points?

Is their solution flexible and customizable enough to address your operational and strategic goals? Ask for the benefits, not a list of features.
 

Are you practitioners or the sales team?

If it's the latter, ask about their processes for handing over new sales to an implementation team. The hand-off can be a major chokepoint in a project; the quality of their answer will give you a sense of the quality of the transition. And if they seem surprised by the question...take the swag and run!

 

Technology is only part of an analytic solution. If your institution is seriously considering investing in your data and analytics platform, make the effort to engage with vendors and go beyond the marketing slogans. Real conversations lead to real solutions.



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