Phil Gilbert (CTO of Lombardi) posts about how to evaluate vendors, and makes some comments that are likely to cause a few groans from people inside his own sales organization, like the 60-day money-back guarantee.
I’d like to add one more thing to his list: request that one of the references be from within the vendor itself; in other words, how are they using their own product? Every company has processes, and if a BPM vendor can’t show how they’re improving their own processes using their own product, you want to know why. And we’re not just talking their expense report approvals process here; ask to see something that’s critical to the revenue-generation side of their business.
Before you head out to evaluate vendor products, however, you need to have a good understanding of your own processes, or at least the general category and order of complexity; otherwise, the vendors will just show you what they want you to see, not what you need to see in order to evaluate how well the product will serve your needs. Think globally (across your entire organization) even if you’ll initially be acting locally (within a department).
Review a checklist such as the recent Gartner BPM Suite Selection Criteria report and think about which of those capabilities that you require before you start talking to vendors.
Talk to a variety of people inside your organization: not just business users, and not just IT, but a reasonable survey of both viewpoints. Some of the biggest BPM disasters that I’ve seen have been because the product was selected purely on the basis of one of those two viewpoints (business or IT), but not both.