This is part three of a four-part series!
Team, Consensus, Goals…Go!
First, a brief review.
In Part 2 of this four-part blog series we talked about assembling your cross-functional team. This approach will ensure that your solution addresses your organization’s broad needs, not just those of an isolated few.
We also discussed the importance of listing specific, quantifiable, predictive maintenance solution goals. This will ensure you pick a solution that does what it’s supposed to do.
Formulate Your Success Criteria
Formulating solution success criteria isn’t rocket science, but certain best practices will help avoid problems and conflicts.
First, as with other tasks, develop a consensus view of these criteria. Make sure your criteria are quantifiable. With such an important milestone for your organization, the last thing you want to do is leave success open to debate.
Give everyone on the team a voice in this process. Each has a personal stake in the solution, and each may be held accountable by different people. The more inclusive your criteria, the more robust your solution.
Don’t forget to set timeframes for criteria where relevant, e.g., cost savings, performance level improvements, critical alarm reductions, etc.
Finally, make sure you and your team agree to which criteria are “must-haves,” and which are “nice-to-haves.”
I know I’ve said this already, but document everything: meeting minutes with attendees and key discussion topics. Goals and deadlines. Major decisions. You’re investing a lot of time and energy into this process, and rightfully so. Nobody wants to have to revisit a decision due to poor recordkeeping.
Draft Your Shortlist
Now that you’ve got your criteria listed and ranked, it’s time to put your research skills to work.
Which solution providers meet all or most of your criteria? With hope, the criteria your team has agreed to will provide effective keywords to conduct web searches for solution provider candidates. Ideally, you’ll encounter an interesting mix of software vendors, SaaS solution providers, and consulting engineering firms, each with a compelling story and approach.
Don’t worry too much about their business models, or where in the food chain they live. You and your team have worked hard for your criteria, so let’s use them to screen your solution provider list. It’s usually best to approach shortlisting in rounds, starting with a list that seems like too many, then winnowing down in phases.
If you’re working with a consultant, this might be a good time to bring them into the loop, at least after making sure there’s no conflict of interest. Each of you on the team should also run your list by peers outside your organization, particularly those who’ve already implemented a Predictive Analytics solution.
As you engage with these resources, make sure you have them focus on the alignment between your criteria and the solution providers. There’s a place for asides, gossip, and anecdotes, but unless they relate directly to your criteria, file them away for reference later.
Again, working as a team, develop your shortlist. How many solution providers should that include? That depends on your team’s time and resources. One of the many benefits of working with a mutually-developed list of criteria is the ability it gives you to rank your prospective solution providers and cap your shortlist to a manageable number.
Meet Directly with Prospective Solution Partners
The next step is to meet directly with your prospective solution providers.
Ideally, you’ll want your candidates to visit you onsite; they’ll likely eagerly accept, as such onsite meetings help them understand the project scope and parameters as well.
Keep things friendly. A good non-disclosure agreement signed in advance will ensure the right balance of openness and confidentiality. Don’t disclose other candidates you’re talking with, but do share your list of criteria – with or without scores – with them in your meeting. This is your team’s opportunity to fill in knowledge gaps, and your candidate’s chance to pitch their unique approach.
Focus on the “how” in these meetings. At this stage, you’ve already addressed the “what” with your goals and criteria. Once your team is satisfied that you’ve covered your organization’s needs, the provider’s ability and the solution approach, go ahead and ask about any anecdotes you’ve picked up from your peers.
Especially for your leading candidates, airing out these nagging concerns will be vital for instilling confidence in the provider and setting a tone of transparency for the relationship.
Congratulations. You’re now ready to start the tendering process.
Keep an eye out for the fourth post in this blog series, where I’ll offer advice on selecting your Predictive Analytics solution. I’ll also try to connect the dots between the relatively new term, Asset Performance Management (APM), and Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Hint: all go hand in hand in selecting the best solution to meet your needs.