Many businesses face challenges when selling and procuring products and services.
As businesses begin their efforts to digitize, it is necessary to source, identify and choose the right solutions and technology partners that benefit the entire organization. During the procurement process, supply risk can be a major challenge and can have a profound impact on business operations if not done correctly.
Suppliers can also face challenges securing business, especially through public sector procurement practices. However, small-and-medium sized suppliers can ultimately provide better value for money, a stronger quality of service, as well as an overall boost for our digital economy. Therefore, it is important to understand how your business can overcome procurement challenges and be one step ahead in the process.
Watch this webcast where we looked at de-risking both the supply and demand side of procurement practices, and learn:
- How to source and procure the right technology for your digital transformation
- How to reduce supply risk and overcome barriers to public sector procurement practices
Erin Bury, CEO & Co-Founder, Willful
- Hugh O’Reilly, Executive Director, Innovate Cities
- Jon Olinski, Professor, Seneca College
- Hongwei Liu, CEO, Mappedin
- Lori Holjevac, VP, Finance, Bempro Global Group Inc.
Leigh Smout: As a result of COVID, businesses are realizing that they actually have to manage their workforce virtually. They need to find new customers without being able to go to a trade show. They need to manage disrupted supply chains. RAP has been designed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade to help companies improve their digital maturity during these challenging times. A participant in the program will have their digital needs assessment done and their DNA. Once we have their DNA, we are able to direct them into the programs that help educate companies, help them create a plan, help them get in touch with the resources that are going to support them as they manage through these challenges. The program is about long-term improvement for businesses about running your business more efficiently, even after the pandemic, that is going to be a critical thing for any business. And in this case, it's going to make all of those businesses stronger. A business can sign up for the program simply by registering at our website, and then we'll get them into that digital needs assessment.
Well, good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us today. My name's Leigh Smout and I'm president of the World Trade Centre Toronto. Welcome to the latest installment of our RAP webcast series. This series would not be possible without the support of our scale of Institute, Toronto sponsors BLG and Innovate Cities. Our RAP program sponsors CIBC, Cisco, KPMG, Rogers for Business, and Soft Choice, as well as funding from the government of Canada and the government of Ontario. And also partnerships with the board's principal sponsors, the global mail and Scotia bank. Just a couple of technical notes to start. If your video is lagging or freezes, there's another stream that can be accessed by clicking the switch stream button that's on the right side of your screen. For any other technical issues click request help in the bottom right corner of your screen and someone will be in touch.
To submit questions at any point, and please don't wait for the panel discussion, do submit them at any point. Please click on the questions tab. And to answer our polling questions please click on the polling tab. And finally, our recording of this webcast will be available on supportbusiness.bot.com. Now, just before we dive into today's important discussion, I'd like to tell you about the Toronto Region Board of Trade's recovery activation program, otherwise known as RAP. You saw a brief video on it there, so I won't repeat all of that, but I just want to tell you why you should participate. So RAP has been helping businesses survive and thrive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 1500 companies have already benefited from our programs. Through online workshops and personalized mentorship sessions with industry experts, RAP is helping Ontario-based SMEs adapt digitally, stay in business, and build a reliable path towards future growth.
Whether you're having difficulty connecting with customers or on the positive side, perhaps struggling to manage increasing demand, RAP can help you find the digital solutions that are right for your business. And getting started really could not be easier. All you have to do is visit rap.bot.com and take our digital needs assessment. It takes about 20 minutes to complete, and it assesses the digital maturity of your business and how it ranks relative to your industry. It gives you an amazing report that you'll find really useful. Your DNA will be your guidepost for the areas you need to focus on. It also allows us to recommend specific programs based on your individual needs. So the best part is thanks to the support of our business and government partners, there's no cost to participate in any RAP programming for businesses across Ontario.
So I really strongly encourage you to join the 1500 businesses that have already benefited from RAP by visiting rap.bot.com or just connect with anyone at the Board of Trade or the World Trade Centre, Toronto, for more information. Now on today's program, I'm really excited again, as always to introduce our wonderful moderator, Erin Bury, CEO, and co-founder of Willful. She'll be leading us and our panel of experts through today's discussion. Erin was named one of marketing magazines top 30 under 30. She is an entrepreneur, marketer, startup advisor, and investor. Erin's also a frequent speaker for a speaker spotlight, a monthly columnist for Financial Post, a tech commentator on CTV News. And if that's not enough, she has been published in the New York Times, Forbes, and CNN. So as always, it's great to have you here with us today, Erin.
And just before I hand things over to Erin, I'm equally excited to be introducing our friend and speaker Hugh O'Reilly, executive director of Innovate Cities who are our programming partner for today's webcast. He was also the president and CEO of Acuity Global and is the former president and chief executive officer of OPTrust. He's currently on the boards of Bridging Finance and then Vancity Community Investment Bank. He's a senior fellow of the city how Institute and an executive in residents with the global risk Institute. So it's great to have you today with us, Hugh, and thanks so much for joining us and I'm going to pass the floor over to you.
Hugh O'Reilly: Thanks very much, Leigh. I'll just be very brief. Really excited about today's session. Innovate Cities is in partnership with the Toronto Board of Trade and we are building an innovation marketplace, and today's session will focus on the hurdles that innovators face that small and medium enterprises face when it comes to procurement and in having their often world-leading products, having trouble selling them. So with that, I'm VERY excited to turn this over to Erin and to listen to the panel.
Erin Bury: Thank you so much, Hugh. And welcome everyone this morning. Thanks, Leigh, for that kind introduction, I'm really excited to be here today to talk about something that I view as a bit of a black box. So I'm as excited as you to learn more about it, tech procurement. So before we dive into the panel discussion, I did want to ask a poll question. So you can actually click on the poll button to the right of your screen to answer this poll. And what I want to know is which of the following do you mostly do business with. Your choices are private sector, public sector, or both. And you can see on your screen as you answer, we'll see some answers in real-time. For us at my company, Willful, we do business mostly with private sector. We have some public sector folks in the audience.
And as you fill this out, we'll see where we land. So it's waiting more heavily to private sector right now. Although we do have some folks in the public sector and a couple of people who are doing both. So thank you very much for taking the time to answer that. It really gives our panelists a good idea of who's out there watching and what their focus is. And with those results in mind, let's move into the panel discussion to dive deeper into the world of procurement. So first I'm going to introduce our three experts that we have on hand today and then hand it over to them for some remarks. So the first person we have with us today is Jon Olinski, a professor at Seneca College. Professor Olinski is the program coordinator for the public administration program within Seneca College's school of legal public and office administration.
He currently serves as the vice-chair for the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, MPAC. He holds an MBA from Anglia Ruskin University. He's a grad of Conestoga College's business administration management studies program and holds multiple professional designations. So it's great to have you with us, Jon. Also, joining us today is Lori Holjavec, VP of finance at Bempro Global Group Inc. Lori joined Bempro which is a Brampton-based advanced manufacturer of complex welded structures, precision cooling solutions, and data center racks and cabinets. All things I am not anywhere close to an expert on. She joined in 1996 and has more than 25 years of experience in accounting, financial analysis, and corporate compliance. Lori also plays a significant role in Bempro's strategic leadership and leads the digital transformation and cyber security process in improvement efforts at Bempro. Over the last seven years, she's been involved in several ERP projects amongst three divisions and is working towards process digitization, automation, and a paperless manufacturing environment, even more relevant in a post-COVID world.
Glad to have you join us, Lori. And last but not least we are joined by Hongwei Liu. Hongwei is the CEO of Mappedin. A Waterloo-based mapping company working with over 700 venues across 30 countries to help digitize the indoors. He's led the company's growth from the founding team to its current 65 person operation. Hongwei grew up in Ottawa where I went to school and studied electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo and we're delighted to have you with us Hongwei. So, Jon, let's begin with you. How has the public procurement process changed over the years and what are some of the challenges that small businesses face when going through the procurement process? And really if I'm going into a procurement process as a small business owner, what mentality or mindset should I have as I navigate that process?
Jon Olinski: Well, great. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present today. And those are excellent questions. So I'm going to dive right in if we could go to the next slide. So I've been asked, like I said, those two questions. I just wanted to give a little context. I guess because we're this nice short presentation to focus more on the Ontario perspective. And my background experience I've worked at Seneca for 15 years is a little more at the broader public sector. But today I want to give a little macro view of kind of how it looks because things have changed a lot, even in my time, working at Seneca and working in the broader public sector. So the two questions that are stated there I just wanted to make sure I had a little scope. Next slide. So one of my first experiences and this isn't an actual picture, but it reminded me of him, it was a man named Stan.
And in the first area I worked in it was in the president's area and Stan would come by once a month and he'd make sure that we had enough toner and printer cartridges. And the great thing about Stan is if you're ever in trouble, you could give him a call, he owned a print shop down the street, he'd come almost right away. He'd always say, I don't know if I can do it, but he'd always be there and he'd come within a few hours. And if you're really in trouble and you need something printed he would be there. So when I thought a change of mentality, I thought it was important to start with that and in about four or five years after I started there, Stan wasn't coming by anymore. And we had to centralize all our printing in a separate department and we had to go down the hall to use a copier. And I didn't think much of it. At the time I thought, okay, that's just the way things work, but there's actually more to it. Next slide.
So a big part of it is that the government of Ontario and argued most in Canada are trying to really be more accountable for how goods and services are sold. A couple of Ontario examples. If you want to build anything with government funding in the province, it's probably going to go through infrastructure, Ontario, any major capital projects have to be managed through that. One big change in my lifetime and maybe the reason why Stan wasn't coming by as much is the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, which essentially said, if you're getting more than 10 million dollars from the Ontario government, you have to now fall under our procurement rules, which are obviously a lot stricter than having Stan come by. Excellent.
So I think trying to get a context of how this works and why it is, and if you look at the legislation that's coming, which I'm going to very briefly talk about. The policy goal and the general goal from that side is to improve accountability and transparency for the procurement decisions and the processes and maximize the value organization received from the use of funds. Very optimistic. I think one thing that's really hard to understand and one of my other roles as chair of a credit union board is there's a very strong political goal and it actually took me a long time to get out of the public sector mentality. I remember a vendor came, they presented a solution. I said, thank you, angel from heaven and my mind went well, I got to go through this long process. So wait a minute. No, this is a private sector.
I can just do this. I can do it right away, but there's a real concern from politicians, and obviously, transparency's been a great thing for government, but it's created a challenge and the number one political goal and that's why you're seeing this tightening of procurement is to make sure to avoid unexpected embarrassment and public scrutiny, and most importantly, in ways people can relate to. And the biggest challenge is we all buy things every day. So we spend a lot of time trying to save money on those things. So when a government official does something or when there's a procurement that has the perception, even that it might have been a related party or it might not have been above board, people get really sensitive. Next slide. So I always say, I call it the rule of orange juice. And I want you to think back in political history, is there someone who's famous for a glass of orange juice or purchasing a glass of orange juice?
Just go to the next slide. This was actually a headline from the globe mail in 2011. Billing for orange juice was a big mistake. So if you remember back about 10 years ago now, Oda was a minister doing international travel. And she made the catastrophic mistake of buying a $16 glass of orange and this became national news. So I think one of the things I hope you take away from this is remembering, it's not that we don't want your solution, it's just if someone makes a mistake, it can become national news and even something very small as orange juice can become a huge issue. Next slide.
So right now there's a huge shift going on. In 2019 the government of Ontario wanted to really centralize purchasing and something they're doing is they're rolling the broader public sector into this. So they're really trying to get more into bulk buying. They're trying to leverage that mass buying power, maybe some good news is a single-window approach that'll make it easier for companies of all size to work with the government, but there's definitely a challenge because you have to get very, very good working through the procurement process. And if we could just roll to the last two slides, that would be great because I want to stay within my time.
Next slide. So remembering that very small thresholds exist where you need to have a very transparent process, one of the ones that I highlight is any consult. If we want to hire a consultant in the public sector, it needs to have kind of open competitive tender, even if it's for $1. So I want to put that up because it shows just how challenging it is and how much process there is to try to buy something. But I think there's a few things that there are some challenges with this, but I want to go to the opportunity slide, which is near the end. And I think that because there's going to be a more centralized approach to purchasing, there is an opportunity to do this, but the most important thing is making sure that you are into and able to work with government. One of the jobs I did was I spent a lot of time writing proposals and it is an art and a science.
And it can be very frustrating because the solution that makes a lot of sense to you that you know could save the government a lot of money, they might not be ready for it and you have to spend a lot of time trying to sell that solution. So making a decision around if you should get into government, I can tell from the poll, some people have made a choice not to and it's the most important thing, but I want to point out the landscape is changing and there is an opportunity to maybe access a bigger pie and once you get in there it's a lot harder to get out. So while we move slow at the beginning, get it once you're in there, it's a lot slower to get out. So thank you.
Erin Bury: Thanks Jon. I can confidently say I've never had a $16 glass of orange juice, but if I did, it would probably be very delicious.
Jon Olinski: I hope so.
Erin Bury: And I think you really hit the nail on the head where it can be quite intimidating. I can say, as a small business owner, it feels very intimidating to navigate the procurement process with public companies and with government. But I think you gave some great tips and I like that parting word, which is once you actually navigate it for the first time, it's much easier in the future and it's really worth that initial investment. So thank you so much for that. With those insights in mind, let's turn to Lori. So Lori, as a business that procures third-party products and services for your own digital transformation, what are some of the fundamental strategic procedures you see when sourcing and procuring products or services to ensure you're making the right decision for your organization and reducing supply risk?
Lori Holjevac: Thanks, Erin. So we've been at this for about seven years, so we'll jump right into the next slide and go through some of the tips that we've learned over the last couple of years. So one recommendation I would absolutely make would be to complete a DNA through the RAP program, as well as their digital transformation blueprint program. It was extremely helpful for us and it allowed us to see where we're really good and at where we're doing well, and where we needed some improvement. And that will help you go in and see the driving force behind your digital transformation. What is it? What functional areas are you looking to address? Sales, operations, talent management, and once you have that focus area, you may want to discuss with your end-users, what's their journey? Map their current process flows and identify their pain points.
Those pain points will identify areas for you to focus on as you're going through the procurement stage. And additionally, when you're speaking to the end-users, have an understanding of the type of data that they use. Is it structured or unstructured? And once you have that information you can also go to your finance team and develop a budget. Next slide, please. So once you begin your procurement stage, you want to consider as an SME, what level of onsite, on-premise infrastructure you want to manage? Do you want it completely onsite or do you want to travel through and go all the way to a cloud solution as software as a server is? And once you do that, you will have to be aware that as you move from onsite to software as a service, you ship control and risk. But for some SMEs, this may be very helpful because it allows them time to focus on other aspects of their business. Next slide, please.
So once you move and understand your platform, you want to create an internal research team. Attend digital transformation webinars, and ask as many questions as you can. Reach out to multiple vendors and have them demonstrate their solutions. You may want to split those demos into different areas and bring in additional functional managers so that you'll become educated and understand what aspects of the offerings are important to you. Also, as an organization, you want to understand your readiness for digital transformation. So where are your resources? Are your employees open to it? How much training are you going to need? These are key things that you want to have an understanding of. Next slide, please.
So once you have that, then you want to be able to go through and narrow down your scope to three to four vendor offerings and look at costs, analyze the gaps between your requirements, and perhaps some of the gaps between the offerings. You need to know how much you're going to pay. Are there any teaser rates? And read the contracts. I can't express that enough, have a full understanding of the offering. Are you able to integrate existing data? And if so, are there additional costs to you and what those may look like? Can you use internal resources during the implementation or to integrate your existing data or during your training? If you're not, you may pay additional costs as you're going through that. The solution that you're looking at can then scale up as you grow your business. This is extremely important. It was to our organization and you need to scale up as you grow your business, and are there additional costs to that? You would also want to explore those areas.
Ask for referrals, case studies, and current implementations. Call and find out what are some of the tips that they have. Did they have a good experience? Would they recommend it to you to go through? Would you want to have a different experience? Would they recommend any tips and tricks, et cetera? Next slide, please. You also want to understand the service level agreements. Some vendors may have different service level agreements. I would read through them all. They can be quite complex, but there are a couple of things that you want to be able to identify. If you're going on a cloud solution, is there a guaranteed up-time? Is it 99%? Is it less than that and how will that impact your business? Ensure that you're aware of how long that the provider will take to address service tickets. Is it 24 hours? Is it 48 hours? Is it 72 hours? How long will your business be out in about and how long do you need to take in order for business to regain its efforts?
So what security measures are also in place to protect your digital ecosystem? Extremely important given cybersecurity. So you want to explore that and look at the different types of reporting. Is the standardized reporting and dashboards able to provide you with enough information where you can make informed decisions? Do you need to have those reports modified? Do you need to have additional reports and what those costs may be? Next slide, please. Lastly, how long will the implementation take? Will it disrupt your business, and if so, for how long? And what training is offered? Will it be in person? Will it be remote? How many people can you have in your training and last but not least, how often are software updates provided, and are they included with your service level agreement or is there an additional cost? And I hope that those are some helpful things for you. Thank you very much. Erin, I'll hand it over to you.
Erin Bury: Thanks, Lori. That was hugely helpful to me as a small business owner, because we don't have a set process for evaluating, researching, comparing vendors. Usually, it's just someone on the team going out and finding a solution and saying, yep, that one looks good. So I think as you grow, having a bit more sophistication intention, setting aside time for research, and knowing that list of questions to ask, especially what stuck with me was case studies. Talking to their existing customers or past customers and trying to get a sense of how it will scale with your team, what their experience was like? What the client service is like.
So those are all really helpful tips and I know I'm going to be getting a copy of that presentation or a copy of those questions as we procure some software for our own company. So thanks so much. Now we're going to turn to Hongwei. So can you begin by telling us about some best practices for small businesses and innovators when securing work with the private sector? What challenges have you faced within public sector procurement? And do you have any advice on how to overcome these challenges?
Hongwei Liu: Great. Thanks for having me here. And I'll start with the private sector. On the screen is what I would call a brag slide. I pulled the slides from something two years ago. So the numbers are a bit out of date, but the main thing I hope to illustrate here is one of the things that we did that didn't feel scalable, but worked out pretty well is we went international early. I often joke to our team that we're the world's smallest multinational. I think many feeding companies start here. We stay here a bit too long without realizing that the world's largest market is south of the border. They assume we're American when we call and they take us seriously. And you'll see of our customers, at least the big ones that we were proud about at that time, there's only one that's based in Canada and that's helped tremendously over the years.
I mean, besides just being a bigger market, some markets move faster. Our first government contract was from the US government, which in turn actually made our own government pay attention, which it turns out a very well-worn path. People go south before they come back. So that's the main takeaway for vendors, software providers, small businesses. What we're doing is hard. It's supposed to be hard. We're trying to convince people to do something new, but it's actually not that much harder. It just goes out to the border and go for a road trip or a cheap flight these days. So, next slide, please. So the next one and the rest of this will be for people who buy stuff. And so obviously take it with a grain of salt.
It's from someone on the other side, but here's some stuff that I hope won't be controversial and I hope no one will be offended. So first, digital big isn't necessarily better. It's just more expensive. So earlier Jon was saying how the political considerations of not making mistakes tends to push people towards procurement processes and buying IBM because you don't get fired. Well, it's true. No one got fired, but Canada did spend two billion dollars buying Phoenix payroll from IBM, and thousands of public sector workers couldn't get paid, it's a disaster if you haven't heard about it. So it does happen, and in the meantime, Canada had five local payroll companies, small SMEs. I think we would call them who any of them could have done that better. We use one of them, right?
And we've always hit our payroll with that software. So big isn't necessarily better. It often is, but not always. And another one that maybe I've noticed a lot of people in the public sector still regard Oracle as a cloud leader. From my perspective and my peers, they're not. They have less than 5% market share of Amazon web services. They won't tell you that, of course, but they're not even close to being in the running if Mappedin and any of our pure companies were picking cloud vendors. So again, big isn't necessarily better. The brand is a lagging indicator and tech things move very quickly. So lagging indicators don't hold as much cloud as maybe in other industries. Next slide, please. So I actually think that most people in procurement and in the public sector procurement especially have really good intentions, right?
We want to buy the best thing. We don't want to waste taxpayer money. We don't want to waste our company's money, but of course, I want to buy the best product. And one of the challenges I've heard when I go to Ottawa and chat with procurement folks is they say, well, you know, when I issue this RFP only the big guys show up. And so of course I can only choose from them. And the challenge though is from a small company's perspective, RFPs just don't look inviting at all. We got into this game because we wanted to build stuff, not write English papers. We were probably really bad at writing English papers, but we're a little bit better at math, for example. So most of the time startups will end up putting up their own storefront or setting up a storefront in a marketplace, whether it's just, here's my website, please search for it.
I'm on a product hunt, which is kind of the new thing that came up after we started. But a lot of new products show up there or on app stores like the iOS app store, and Shopify's app store and so on. So they hope that you find them. It's obviously more cost-effective for them to just put up a storefront and you can go to them. But it's actually not just for small companies, Apple famously never played ball with corporate procurement when they sold iPhones, they just waited till every consumer said give me a freaking iPhone or I'll bring it myself, and then lo and behold companies started finally providing iPhones. And clearly, they made a decision that they'd rather focus on their product, they'd rather put all their attention and energy into building the best product and hopefully, you'll actually buy it from them.
And they did try very hard to market to one category of people, which was the consumer. And I think we'll often find that these days in tech, Gmail took off for consumers before companies finally moved over from Outlook. So that is a general trend as well, is that the people who show up for RFPs tend to win only because the RFP process sucks. And last slide, please. But don't just do it for the benefit of companies, do it for yourself. If I was to buy something, I would want to go to the market because I want to know completely what's out there. I want to do the homework myself. I want to compare features and pricing. I want to be able to talk to them, right? And have real relationships and ask questions, touch it myself, give me a trial, negotiate, try it before I buy it.
It's so much easier to just walk around and chat with folks. It does require you to, of course, learn a little bit for yourself and ultimately make a gut check. But I think that experience truly is going to be the future, and of course, in a marketplace, if you're on Shopify, for example, you can see how others have reviewed it. It's just much faster and at the end of the day, you're going to save a lot of money no matter what, because it's a more competitive place. And so everyone has to be a bit more competitive on price. And I think at the end of the day, you could probably find what you're looking for faster than you could even write the RFP. So jokingly please stop. I understand that sometimes that's not an option, but if it is, just consider it. And I would make the analogy of if you're buying digital, it's kind of like taking your car to the shop.
You kind of want to know enough that you can keep the person honest and have a relationship with them so that they value a long-term relationship with you that they don't take advantage of you the first time. And some people are really intimidated by that, but the good news is, in an organization like yours, it doesn't have to be you, right? So get somebody internal who knows this stuff, who speaks the language, who can make that decision, or phone a friend. It's really the best way to optimize and again, tech moves pretty quickly. So I think it's important to have someone who's in it. So that's it. Thank you. And I look forward to the discussion.
Erin Bury: Thanks so much, Hongwei. Think a lot of that resonated. I used to run a marketing agency and when we saw really complex RFPs from bigger companies, we just wouldn't even try to respond to them because they were so lengthy and the requirements were so in-depth that we just didn't have the resources. And we just always assumed that we would lose because the others who had navigated that process before to Jon's point earlier, who had cracked the nut on procurement with big companies. So I think those are some really good tips. And I know we have some questions from the audience for all of you actually coming up shortly. Before I hand it over to audience questions. Thank you so much for sharing all of your insights. Now that you've heard each other's presentations, any final thoughts? I know we have a top tip slide up here with some takeaways from each of you, but any final thoughts before we hand it over to audience questions? Jon, anything that comes to your mind?
Jon Olinski: Sure. Just to highlight the tips. I think kind of as a theme amongst all the speakers was, and you just said it too Erin, around you got to really invest in that. And I think Hongwei's presentation around Oracle not being the top dog, but it's still the government, like once you're in, you're out. So making that strategic decision. The other thing is the information's there, it's just really hard to find. So I know it's not going to show up in this presentation, but there are hyperlinks of all the tendering sites in Ontario and can Canada. And I don't know if that can get out, but they are there, and one thing you can do, and it doesn't cost anything, just see what's out there and what they're looking for. So with no risk or obligation, you can actually get a sense of what they're looking for.
And it takes a bit of time, but they'll send those things to you automatically if you sign up for the list. So maybe once in a while, it'll be one that's like, that's perfect, that's worth my time and I think we can do it and it's exactly what we need. The other one was partner with someone who's experienced with it. I mean, one of my colleagues had great success joining another organization who's already recognized the vendor of record, and that opened up a door for a lot of small contracts. So I just wanted to highlight those two things at the end.
Erin Bury: That's great. Thank you, Jon. Lori, any final top tips from you?
Lori Holjevac: Yes, Erin, thank you. So for us as an SME, we did a lot of research. I would absolutely recommend that people do their research and their path will be easier. Ask questions, go to webinars, make sure that you're well informed, I cannot stress that enough. And it can be very overwhelming. But if you take your time and have an understanding of the process, it will be easier. So, as an example for us, when we were looking at an ERP system, we actually did research for eight months prior to hitting the go button, and IT and myself and a couple of other folks scheduled weekly meetings where we would spend six to seven hours going through it. It may not take that long for a smaller project, but you would want to ensure that that solution is going to be the best thing for your organization. That's as much as I would recommend.
Erin Bury: Thank you, Lori. And Hongwei, do you want to run us through your top tips before we go to audience questions?
Hongwei Liu: Sure. Just big isn't always better. Just know that you'll pay a bit more and if you're selling stuff, look south and go south young man is what I heard a lot. So take their advice.
Erin Bury: Okay. So I'm going to take away from today. Be careful when buying expensive orange juice and bigger isn't always better. So with that, I'm going to turn it over to some audience questions. We've already had some questions come in. If you have one that's come up as the panelists have been presenting, you can click on the questions tab and submit yours now. The first question that I have is for Jon. And Jon, you actually just mentioned this phrase, vendor of record, and Jonathan in the audience wants to know, can you elaborate on what constitutes a vendor of record and whether or not there are particular barriers for SMEs to become one?
Jon Olinski: So, yeah, I think what it essentially means is that you're a trusted vendor. So instead of applying for each individual contract, you over set period could be two or three years are now qualified to provide that good or service to the government within certain procurement thresholds and within parameters. So essentially it's usually a response to an RFB and I know that those can be daunting, but the idea is that instead of asking every time you want to buy it, and I know you love orange juice. So instead of having an RFP for different orange juice, you say we know we're going to need a lot of orange juice over the next two to three years. We want to have a vendor that can provide that and we don't want to keep asking, but we still have to be transparent and go through that procurement process.
So becoming that vendor of record gives that, and I'll give a quick example, a former colleague of mine, he provided consulting services and as I said in government at $0, but he joined up with a large organization who was already a vendor of record and essentially became a subcontractor to that individual. And he was able to very easily because it was with the entire sector, sell his presentations, in this case in a very specific area to a group. And that really opened the door and it made it a lot easier because essentially they did go through the RFP. So the protection of not overpaying for orange juice if you will was there, but they didn't have to keep going back. So that's why I put it as one of the tips because it can be quite effective.
Erin Bury: Yeah. That's a great point. You kind of avoid that lengthy procurement process if you can just become a subcontractor to an organization that's already done all of the heavy lifting. So thank you for that Jon.
Jon Olinski: And sometimes they look for strength in that, like when they're evaluating if you have multiple organizations that show strengthen different areas, that actually increases the point value. So I was also trying to give that as a tip as well.
Erin Bury: Great. Thank you so much. Moving on to Hongwei, we have a question from Aviva. You had just mentioned this phrase try before you buy when it comes to procurement. And Aviva is wondering if you can provide an example of how Mappedin has applied the practice of try before you buy and is wondering if you have any best practices to get the most out of the offer.
Hongwei Liu: Okay. So I guess I'll speak as a seller first and then our experiences as buyers. So our sales team, especially when we go into a new market where we're not already number one in the category, they know that our strategy is, look, we'd love to offer you a three-month pilot. We will do it for costs so you need to put some skin in the game, but really our goal is to show you that this can scale. And one thing that we learned early on was we want to define with our stakeholder, with our champion as we call it, so the buyer, the criteria is for success. What does success look like at the end of three months? Let's decide in advance what that might look like and we will aim for it because we really do want this to work for you and make you look good and make this successful.
And oftentimes we find that actually do get the budget provisionally in advance for the whole thing anyway, but everyone's aligned. Their senior stakeholders saw this next criteria and now they know what to look for, they're not going to be hit with it all at once, they kind of get two data points to back that decision. As a buyer, I mean, we always ask for a free trial, we don't always get it, but the big cloud vendors, for example, are really happy to give out like Amazon, Azure, Google, they all give you three months of free credits for cloud hosting to your engineers. They know that once you start building stuff on top of their system and you're successful, it gets pretty sticky. So they're all happy to do that. I'd be shameless not asking for it.
Erin Bury: So it sounds like the key to it is just asking and the worst they can say is no. So thanks Hongwei for that. And Lori, I wanted to move on to a question from Johnny. Johnny wants to know, you spoke about creating an internal research team who can help you navigate that procurement process. What skills, insights, and experience are you looking for when you're actually creating and putting together that internal research team?
Lori Holjevac: Okay. So in our organization we had a core team and it was three individuals that went through and did all of the research. But as we were going through different modules of the ERP system, or in an SMEs case is different modules within the solution that they're looking for, we brought in functional managers or key employees in that area to come and take a look at the demos to read some documentation, have the calls, and we went through everything. So if there was someone in our core team that was lacking the experience, so from my perspective, I'm from finance and we had the IT manager there as well, and someone else from finance, but we are a manufacturing organization.
So when we had to go through the engineering module, we had engineers come on board and go through the research with us and it was very telling of their experiences and what was important to them and we learned a lot along the way. And we were able to focus in on some criteria's when we were looking at different solutions. So you don't necessarily need to have the experience, but what you want to do is you want to bring in people that are going to be able to talk and go through some of the functional areas within the solution that you're looking at.
Erin Bury: Thanks for that. So really bringing in the people who are going to be using it and getting their insights and expertise which makes a lot of sense. So thank you so much. Thanks, Jon, Lori, and Hongwei for an insightful conversation and for taking time to answer questions from the audience. Unfortunately, time flies when we're doing these events and so we actually are at the end of our program for today. But before we sign off, I wanted to remind everyone about the digital needs assessment, which has been mentioned a couple of times, DNA for short. Leigh mentioned it at the start of this program, and I took some time to go through it a few months ago, and it really only took 10 to 15 minutes and it's really the gateway to a lot of the programming and opportunities that Leigh spoke about at the beginning of the program. So it's really going to assess the core competencies and gaps in the digital capacity of your business and how it ranks relative to your industry.
So it's also going to provide you that benchmark. To take the digital needs assessment, you can simply click on the graphic to the right of your screen in the info tab or visit rap.bot.com. Lastly, on July 22nd at 9:00 AM, we'll be launching the first digital certificate workshop in the entrepreneur's wellness series to discuss techniques and technologies to optimize your brain and increase your mental performance. And as someone who's six months pregnant, I could definitely benefit from optimizing my brain and increasing my mental performance. So I love that. And to join, you can take your DNA today and you'll receive more details. To register for all of our upcoming webcasts, please visit supportbusiness.bot.com and select webinars and videos. Thank you again to all of our panelists for sharing your insights today. That's all the time we have. Thank you everyone, and have a great day.