I have often said that I think with a keyboard, which is a bad way to think sometimes. Especially if you’re working with a spreadsheet instead of a document.So I’m going to scribble notes here for a moment.
I’m putting together a proposed RFP for enterprise search/information access technologies right now. It’s been something people have wanted for years, ever since we started the Gartner for IT Leaders program and began selling non-traditional research (It’s Not Just Linear Narrative Any More). I’ve resisted it — I admit it — because of a fear of the monoculture that standardized RFPs can cause, and also because it seemed too much like working for a living.
Now I’m doing it. My agenda manager, now outgoing, told me it’s the thing people need, so it’s time for me to do it. I did what any lazy man does — I grabbed together all the RFPs that we’ve published so far in my area, and looked at what they did. Then I went and got my clients’ draft RFPs (NDA still firmly tucked in around their corners) and looked at them. Of course, nothing looked alike. Exit the template model.
Deb Logan’s RFP for e-discovery is pretty open-ended. It has a bunch of tabs, and on each tab specific areas of specialty are called out. There’s no real scoring — it’s more explanatory. The RFP for ECM suites, now a bit dated and so in the archive (that’s like “the stacks” in a library of all those years ago — the library has it but doesn’t keep in the shelves you can browse — we take it out of the search results unless you ask for “archived research”), is very scorish. There’s scores for different capabilities, and vendor guidelines for each on how to score it on a linear Likert scale. I am impressed by their certainty, and I believe it deeply — the authors are a solid team that does probably 1,000 inquiries annually on ECM, Records Management, BCS and WCM issues.
We don’t have that kind of volume in search, and, frankly, search is a weirder thing. Company X needs search NOW because their intranet search is wretched. A giant enterprise with 40,000+ users told me the single most common query on their internal portal is “lunch menu,” keyed in upty-zillion languages in 100+ countries. Funny! Except that if that’s 10,000 hours being spent weekly talking about what’s in the cafeteria (I’m estimating with no basis in fact) then that’s a lot of worker time that’s going in a hole when it could be spent making widgets. On the other hand, Company Y needs search to fix customer service. Company Z needs it to do competitive intelligence. And so forth.
So how do I score these functions? I’ve spent years teasing out of enterprises what it is exactly they need, and I am quite fearful of monoculture here. I just don’t think I can introduce the scoring here– at least not in this generation of the toolkit.
Or should I? Let’s be realistic. People need scores. Somebody has to make a decision somehow and somewhere, and not offering the refinement is its own lack of value. If I were a client, and I had paid a pile of money for this research, I would want somebody to help me pull the trigger. Dar Brown told me in boot camp more than eight years ago when I hired in — a Gartner analyst is sometimes wrong, but never uncertain.
OK, this is what I’m going to try. (Not pretty to watch a grown man think with his keyboard, is it? What was the acronym from back in the day? PLOK? Ah, plok’t*. I’m pressing lots of keys to think, myself.) I’m going to have a light score. Vendors can indicate they do something, or that they don’t, or that they THINK THEY CAN DO SOMETHING. And then users can say to themselves how important that something is. And then in every area, vendors will get a certain score. This will effectively mirror our MQ process in some ways, with particular support for particular user needs.
Whew. Now if only I can figure out what to do to make the spreadsheet work.
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