Three Questions To Ask Before Any Major Agency Purchase

There are a lot of reasons to be hesitant about making a major purchase when working inside a government agency.  The procurement process can be cumbersome and time consuming.  High-cost items reduce the budget remaining for critical day-to-day expenditures.  Finally, you have to wonder what the long-term consequences will be if you select the wrong service or vendor.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know ahead of time whether the decision will work out or not – the agency’s needs may change shortly after the purchase is made, or the vendor may encounter unexpected challenges that they didn’t experience in other jobs at similar agencies.  But there are questions you can ask that will help prevent buyer’s remorse.  Here are three of them.
 


Will the Service Be As Good As the Salesperson?

We’ve all seen businesses where the sales phone line is open for more hours of the day than the service phone line.  That’s obviously a bad sign – the company is working harder to close the sale than they are to actually provide the service they promised in the sale.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that obvious that things will go downhill after the sale – but that doesn’t make it any less important to figure out what you’re getting into.  If possible, try to interact with the individuals who will actually be providing product or service support as part of the purchase.  Get an idea of their reachability, their friendliness, and their ability to get answers to your questions if they don’t have them at their fingertips.  If you’re signing a years-long contract (which is common in government agencies) this is even more important, because you’ll be stuck with this level of service for years.
 

Will the Product Deliver What Is Promised?

Many government contracts are set up such that vendors are disqualified if they can’t check certain boxes.  This leads them to “stretch” to be able to check a box – justifying their ability to meet a goal which will require them to do something they’ve not done before.  Sometimes, this isn’t obvious until after the papers are signed. At that point, assessing if they are meeting their goals devolves into the definitions of phrases within a contract.  Ultimately, everyone ends up losing in this type of deal.

Make sure to talk with other customers of vendors when you’re signing major contracts.  Ask these other customers if they felt like the agency overpromised on anything, and what impact it had on their ability to deliver and on the agency’s goals and deadlines.  If other customers feel like they’ve been misled, odds are your agency will as well.
 

Can the Product or Service Grow With You?

If the contract being signed extends for more than three years, it’s especially important to know if the vendor’s product or service is flexible enough to meet changes that will inevitably come.  If the agency needs a higher level of service due to unexpected new mandates or growth, can the vendor accommodate that?  If the purchase is a technology purchase, some of the hardware and software being used by the agency will likely be “cycled out” and replaced with newer technology. Will the vendor support that new hardware and software as well, or will that require an add-on contract at a later time?  If a long contract provides no flexibility, there’s a good chance that you’re going to end up spending more than you expected to make modifications at some point.
 

To learn more about how CMTS can help your agency manage its cases more efficiently, call us at 919.600.5102 or email Team_CMTS@WingSwept.com  

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