Fireside chat recap: top 7 questions to ask when evaluating IDP vendors
If you are a business leader looking to streamline document processes for your organization, intelligent document processing (IDP) may be the automation solution your team needs.
However, sometimes it’s unclear which vendor can deliver the results your organization needs. So, how do you choose the right vendor?
Mar 14, 2023 by Craig Woolard
In a recent fireside chat, three Automation Hero leaders discussed the best strategies to evaluate IDP vendors. They covered everything from vendor experience and performance to use cases, technical requirements, implementation strategies, scalability, and cost-effectiveness.
This blog highlights the top seven questions to ask when evaluating and selecting an IDP vendor. Your current automation might not be optimal for processing documents or unstructured data, so interviewing vendors and asking key questions is essential to finding the best approach for a return on investment (ROI).
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By following the insights from these IDP experts, you can make a more informed decision that optimizes your document processing capabilities and takes your organization to the next level.
The three participants from Automation Hero were:
- Cynthia Almonte, Director of Product Management
- Kevin Shepherd, Director of Product Solutions
- David Danushevsky, Sales Director
You can read full bios of the speakers at the end of the article, but in the meantime, let’s hear their advice.
Top 7 questions to ask when evaluating IDP vendors
1. What is the potential impact of the problem?
On beginning the automation journey, Cindy Almonte leads the conversation with the following:
“I like to start by understanding the potential impact of the problem…for example, are we solving a problem for a line of business that has limited impact and probably a smaller issue for a group of people, or is this a problem that affects a lot of people organization-wide?”
Addressing the question from a product management perspective, Cindy explains how organizations should begin their automation journeys by identifying problems with the highest ROI.
“Finding something which has a good ROI calculation, whether it’s a small problem in a line of business or a big problem enterprise-wide, is always a really good initial approach because…once you’ve been impressed with automation’s ability to solve these bigger problems and shown the ROI-based calculation of what you’ve saved, it is much easier internally to get buy-in to solve other problems.”
From her experience guiding organizations through the automation journey, she explains that starting with a minor problem for a particular team may be a good approach. However, in her experience, she concludes that beginning with a more comprehensive enterprise-wide solution frequently impresses stakeholders and increases buy-in for future automation projects.
2. Are we looking for a short-term or long-term solution?
We all agree on the ultimate goal of automation: saving money and repurposing resources so humans can focus on work that requires actual thought.
On getting started, Kevin weighs in with a time-driven approach and considers the short-term and long-term problems that must be addressed before introducing automation into an organization.
“…as well as the small and big problems…is it just something you know is short-term because of a business strategy change…[or]…is it a really good time to revisit the whole process?”
Kevin also highlighted the importance of choosing a vendor to collaborate with your team and help you.
“Is the vendor the type of vendor that can…help you take it back to the whiteboard and say, ‘Okay, just because you’ve been doing it like this for 20 years doesn’t mean that’s the right way.’ How can we utilize the new technology we now have…to the best of its ability rather than just ripping and replacing what you’ve got?”
Choosing a vendor to help you with this process in the beginning phases is essential. Kevin advises organizations to revisit their strategies holistically before deploying automation that attempts to improve them. He also highlights the importance of internal resourcing and identifying the right team members in your organization who can help drive the project forward:
“From your business team to your IT team, who are the people who can really help you understand how reimagined processes will have the biggest impact? Identify those people on your team who can help drive automation forward and onboard them in the initial phase of the project. Get them speaking to the vendor and start building up that relationship early on.”
3. What is the most efficient way to get from A to B?
From input to output, there are multiple ways to achieve a goal. For example, there are many ways to achieve your automation goals, but we seek the most efficient approach with the best ROI.
When evaluating vendors, the focus should be finding the best and most efficient way to achieve your desired outcome. Automation Hero Solutions Expert David Danushevsky weighs in on the question with years of experience working with automation clients:
“With so many vendors out there, there are now multiple ways to get from A to B…but I will say, when you’re asking these questions, what you’re looking for is the best way, so that’s something that absolutely needs to be considered…your current way is probably not great, which is why you’re interviewing vendors, so a lot of these questions are definitely key to finding the most efficient way to grab that coveted ROI.”
On the most efficient way to get from A to B, Cindy says:
“I think it’s also really important to understand the capabilities of your resources internally are…[For example,] there are times when it’s just better to engage with services to get a process launched and running within an organization and then have your team supported on an ongoing basis, but not actually build it.”
Leveraging years of product management experience in the tech industry, Cindy explains the value of accurate personnel assessment and collaboration across departments when helping clients build out automation projects:
“Every organization is different. Some organizations have deep technical resources and can throw people at the problems and collaborate well with us. But, on the other hand, some organizations aren’t capable of that, and I think it’s beneficial for an organization just to do that assessment upfront.”
In addition to identifying the resources available, Cindy shares her A to B strategy for efficient implementation:
4. What is your organization’s current automation landscape?
In the automation world, many claims are being made, and it’s not always clear which vendor can deliver the results your organization needs.
Therefore, when evaluating automation tools, it’s critical to define the success criteria, such as the metrics you will use for measuring the automation’s success, the use cases you might want to automate, and implementation strategies as you navigate the current technology landscape.
Automation Hero’s David Danushevsky shares his perspective on the current automation landscape:
“A lot of the prospects I speak to already have automation in-house, but some of these technologies can be dated, or they’re just not doing what the user is necessarily looking for, or again, it’s not the most efficient way to get from A to B.”
Furthermore, David advocates focusing on a few projects first and observing their ROI:
“What I try to preach early on is… let’s focus on a project or two and let’s see how it works, and then once that ROI is really starting to take shape…then we have a plethora of opportunities to explore other use cases within the business, and that’s when it gets exciting.”
5. Who is involved in the decision-making process?
Whether it’s business people or IT people, it’s essential to understand the technical requirements of your automation and who it will affect. On who should be involved in the decision-making process, Kevin says:
“It’s crucial to involve everyone in the process and ensure they understand that the goal is not to replace their jobs but to build upon their important contributions. This early involvement is important for successful integration points, smooth implementation, and User Acceptance Testing. Early involvement from the team also helps reduce fear and resistance to the new process.”
Another action item to consider in your implementation strategy is defining the success criteria early on in the initial phases of a project. Failing to define success criteria that everyone aligns with is a common issue that derails a project.
This occurs when someone looks at the project and decides that the success criteria need to be increased or changed, even if they were agreed upon earlier. This change can affect the project’s implementation and ROI. Kevin says:
“If I shave time off here or if I manage to process these things two days faster and achieve the ROI goal that was initially defined, and then all of a sudden someone else looks at it and says ‘no, that needs to be twice as much,’ then that can really derail a project and the implementation, so I think getting both your requirements and your success criteria understood really early and getting everyone in alignment with them is pretty key.”
While redefining an organization’s success criteria comes up frequently, it can be tackled early to mitigate some of the headaches that slow down progress later. Therefore, it’s crucial to clearly understand the requirements and success criteria from the start of a project. Ensuring everyone’s agreement as early as possible will help avoid any issues.
6. Who will be implementing the solution? Are you using internal resources, or is an external vendor handling it?
If your company is considering multiple automations with long-term strategies, adding a partner from the vendor’s ecosystem can also be a tremendous value-add in decision-making.
Whether it’s from the vendor’s network or a partner that you already engage with, Kevin Shepherd explains how adding an experienced partner can push the project forward into production:
“Does the vendor already work with a partner base? If you don’t have an in-house team that can manage that, then it’s quite likely that having a partner in the ecosystem will help you really push that project forward.”
On the topic of who will be implementing the solution, Cindy emphasizes the critical role that project managers play within large-scale enterprise projects:
“I think for these large-scale enterprise projects, the most unsung hero on successful teams is the project manager…ultimately someone who can manage all aspects of a project.”
However, Cindy cautions against the assumption that project management is a simple task anyone can handle. Instead, she emphasizes the crucial role experienced project managers play in effectively managing complex projects:
“A project manager, not just somebody from accounting who runs a spreadsheet with all of the tasks on it, but someone who can literally say this is the definition of phase one based on the requirements from the business and then manage the entire team’s work effort, is worth their weight in gold internally…having someone who is aggressively managing the project is just hugely critical in moving these things into production.”
Doubling down on the critical role internal project managers play in the implementation strategy, Kevin Shepherd stresses the importance of collaboration between internal and external resources for successful enterprise-scale projects:
“As we go back to the topic of picking the right vendor…they have project managers, and they have customer success managers…but you need one on the customer side as well…so totally agree, Cynthia, that’s essential.”
On implementation, David Danushevsky also agrees with the essential role of the internal project manager:
“I want to echo the project manager’s piece from the rooftops. A project manager that’s calculated, efficient, organized, and has a process to check boxes as they go…is essential in moving the process along, and I’m so glad that you both touched on that.”
7. What security considerations do we have?
Security is a crucial concern for nearly every customer these days. Therefore, we recommend defining your security criteria from day one. Addressing security concerns early in the process helps reduce unnecessary hold-ups during your implementation.
On security topics to consider, Kevin Shepherd emphasizes the importance of defining your security criteria from day one with the following:
“From the actual implementation side, spinning up cloud environments takes minutes, so we often see customers get environments up and running really quick and then say, ’Actually, we need to tick all these security checkboxes with our security chief or our CISO.’ Again, it could be something really simple like email integration, but because it’s touching the cloud platform, suddenly, you’ve got lots of hoops to jump through, so ideally, you want to start those sorts of questions as early as you know them,m before you’ve even signed the paperwork.”
Furthermore, vendors are usually willing to address your security concerns and sign NDAs or master agreements before implementation. Doing this as early as possible helps reduce the number of unplanned concerns that tend to arise and hold up the process later. Kevin says:
“Any vendor out there, including Automation Hero, will be more than happy to run over security problems and make sure that the NDAs are signed at the right levels…because it’s a group business, and that helps everyone expand later…the great thing is you can get those conversations going really early in the process by working with the right vendor.”
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In conclusion, evaluating automation vendors requires thoroughly analyzing vendor capabilities, technical requirements, and cost-effectiveness.
The seven questions highlighted in this blog provide a framework for assessing potential automation vendors. As a result, you can select the best automation solution, platform, or technology for your use case.
We hope the insights from Automation Hero’s AI experts help your organization optimize its document processing workflows, increase efficiency, and drive ROI goals to success.
We recommend watching the whole discussion in the webinar link to gain further knowledge and insights from our AI experts. Then, with a comprehensive evaluation process, your business can make an informed decision that aligns with your unique goals, large or small.
Regardless of the scale of your enterprise or use case, we can help you get there. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Speak with an expert — tell us about your specific use case.
- Get a personalized demo — schedule a demo, and our Heroes will get in touch!
Who are the AI experts?
Cynthia Almonte, Director of Product Management, Automation Hero
Cindy Almonte is a tech veteran with over 20 years of product leadership experience. She has worked in various leadership roles in big data, search, marketing, and product management at major tech companies. As Automation Hero’s Director of Product Management, Cindy wears many hats and collaborates within and across teams to define, design, develop, and deliver first-class software solutions. Cindy consistently pushes herself and her team to deliver the best possible work. Cindy’s leadership and guidance are a big part of what makes Automation Hero’s work unique. She is an incredible inspiration for our team.
Kevin Shepherd, Director of Product Solutions, Automation Hero
Kevin Shepherd brings nearly three decades of tech experience to Automation Hero. Recently promoted from Head of Customer Success to Product Solutions Director, Kevin’s technical acumen in network engineering, consulting, communication, and product go-to-market strategy are critical assets to Automation Hero’s product success. In addition, Kevin says he enjoys making people’s work more enjoyable, productive, efficient, and precise by augmenting human intelligence with intelligent document processing automation.
David Danushevsky, Sales Director, Automation Hero
As a skilled sales professional with a diverse background in startups, including SaaS, artificial intelligence, automation, real estate, and hospitality, David has developed a unique perspective on business development’s technical and strategic aspects. Additionally, he brings a passion for mentorship and cultivates sales talent with an ability to think “outside the box” to deliver maximum success.
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