Selecting a Technology Vendor: 3 Questions to Ask

Alan WooldridgeAs with anything else at your bank, selecting a technology vendor can be a challenging decision. Users from across different departments must agree on a variety of considerations, such as features, budgets, roll-out schedules, and training priorities. And, as your IT team frequently points out, security and scalability should never be overlooked.

 

So, how can your institution keep everything balanced?

 

Asking plenty of questions is a great place to start. In my experience, the following three questions are staples to any technology decision.

 

What Type of Integration is Feasible?

 

In recent years, banks of all sizes have begun realizing significant value by connecting their various banking systems. For example, in our world of document management, we consistently see institutions connecting their core systems to third-party doc preparation apps and exception management software. In doing so, they’re able to minimize dependency on paper documents and create a more efficient loan approval workflow.

 

Unfortunately, some banks mistakenly assume that all technology providers have built their systems to “play nice” with their current infrastructure. Others remember to ask about integration, but they don’t dig deep enough. When looking at a technology vendor in the context of integration, it’s important to consider this topic from a variety of perspectives:

 

  • Interfaces to your current systems
  • Feature overlap / conflicts
  • Long-term fit with future technology decisions
  • Upcharges associated with interfaces
  • Downstream impact on your existing systems (such as added server load)

 

Don’t just take the vendor’s word for it. Ask for detailed documentation about which interfaces are currently offered (or are planned for the future). Estimate how these integrations could make your life easier (or more difficult) – before signing on the dotted line.

 

Can I Get a List of Five Banking References?

 

Asking for references is a great idea.

 

However, if you’re not specific in your request, the vendor will probably send you one or two carefully selected clients. With so much of your bank’s money on the line, you can’t afford to take due diligence lightly.

 

For some vendors, banking is just another niche that they serve. If that’s the case, it’s especially important to get plenty of banking-related references. The last thing you want to do is pick a software or platform that isn’t specific enough to your lending needs.

 

If the vendor can’t give you a list of (at least) five banks to call, then you might want to keep looking.

 

What Kind of Customer Support Can We Expect?

 

Sure, you can ask the vendor about the type of support they provide. However, you’re likely to get an answer that sounds like this: “We offer phone and live chat support during normal business hours. You can file a support ticket if your request is after hours.”

 

That all sounds great, but the vendor apparently didn’t understand what you were really asking. How support will be facilitated is certainly worth noting, but the quality of support is much more important. Granted, the vendor is probably not the most impartial source for this type of information.

 

Luckily, you’ve already asked for a list of five references. Once you receive the list, be sure to ask each bank about their experiences with the vendor’s support team. Specifically, you’ll want to explore:

 

  • Responsiveness to tickets
  • Willingness to consider new feature requests
  • Educational opportunities (user conferences, webinars, etc.)
  • Frequency of product updates, patches, and bug fixes
  • Quality of training materials and resources

 

Ask the Right Questions

 

In the long run, picking the right technology vendor can save you thousands of dollars and untold hours of frustration. Don’t just go through the motions – invest in the process, closely consider your needs, and ask plenty of questions.

Author:

Alan Wooldridge is the President of AccuSystems, LLC, a bank technology and software development firm located in Pueblo, Colorado. To learn more about AccuSystems, visit http://www.accusystem.com.

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