The process of identifying and mobilizing resources for a potential contract takes months of work and promises nothing in return, but that's the only way information system vendors can land new takers for their sophisticated wares. Isolating the total time spent by executives and technical employees is not easy, and MODERN HEALTHCARE was not able to get a firm estimate. But just looking at the process, it's bound to be expensive. First Data Corp. spokesman Jay Everette helped lay out the typical time line:
Initial contact with a provider-A sales rep learns of a potential customer and puts the vendor in the running.
Factfinding-The vendor determines the provider institution's information needs. At the same time, the institution is checking out what each candidate vendor can offer.
Request for proposals-The vendor must respond to detailed expectations point by point. It takes considerable research time and results in a book-size document.
The finals-The list of candidate vendors is narrowed to the top three or so. This is when the finalists produce a detailed "demo" of the software they want to sell and run it at the institution for all the decisionmakers, including clinicians.
Site visit-Representatives of the client hospital or system visit the vendor headquarters for one more presentation and a peek at the vendor's corporate culture and mode of operation. This is important for providers who are about to make a long-term commitment with a key supplier.
Final decision-The payoff for the winner, the loss for all others in the running.