When implementing a vendor management system, some of the more important things to watch might not be the most obvious.

Freescale Semiconductor recently switched from an MSP and VMS solution to a VMS run in-house. We asked Paula Taylor, global strategic sourcing manager what is most important to keep in mind when choosing a VMS.

Instead of the technical aspects, Taylor said support, partnership and flexibility are among the most important.

“For us, we felt like, at least in the top three to five tools, they could all do the job, all of them had a different way of getting to the end result,” she said. Also, cost wasn’t the sole (or even primary) focus; there was enough competition in the market so that pricing models would be similar.

Instead, the decision focused on the flexibility of the VMS provider and its support model. The company sought a provider that it could work with to make changes as needed on an ongoing basis. That was instead of a provider with a more rigid system that might require work tickets along with charges for every single configuration change — along with long waits for the work to get done.

People tend to focus on costs that are negotiated upfront, such as fees per transaction, Taylor said. People might not think about costs in the future such as a configuration change in six months or the cost to change workflow — and those can really add up.

With the VMS provider Freescale chose, “it was much more I needed to pick up the phone, call my account rep, explain what was going on.” Changes could be made the same day in some cases and things felt like a partnership. And this can make things run more smoothly and help aid adoption.

“We only have one chance to make a first impression with an internal program change like this,” Taylor said. “We couldn’t afford time delays based on our VMS provider if we were going to provide outstanding customer service.”

Much like taking a trip, there are many different ways to reach your goal, she said. “The difference for us was how quickly we get there, how pleasant was the trip, how we felt when we got there, how much did it cost, and did we enjoy it?” Taylor said. “We were looking at the mechanism to get us to the same point. … We just wanted it to be fast, painless and not cost us a fortune.”

Another thing Taylor did was visit existing customers of potential VMS providers without representatives of the VMS present. It was an unusual move to schedule such visits for software tool purchases, but it paid off in greater understanding.

“That customer visit and understanding how they support their clients was the difference-maker for us,” Taylor said.