How to Evaluate Third-Party Database Products

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Evaluating database products requires a budget, a time frame and a team. As with any corporate project, the scale of this venture should match the cost of the items in question and the effect it will have on the organization.

Yet, whether the evaluation team meets three times or works together for a year, having a predetermined process will help ensure the company gets the product it needs at the price it wants.

It’s important for a company to follow a standardized process with every new product it buys because that is the best way to gauge and prepare for the impact the transition will have on the company, said Christopher Foot, Remote DBA Experts director of operations and author of “The OCP Instructor’s Guide for Oracle DBA Certification.”

Because the evaluation process has few hard costs and requires the time of only a few select employees, many companies simply put together a group of people and say, ‘Find us a new product,’ without developing a consistent process, he said.

“A lot of people seem to think that if the product’s relatively cheap, or it doesn’t have a wide impact on the organization that they can kind of wing it through the evaluation process,” he said. “Yet, even though it may be an inexpensive product, you can shorten the timeline and cut out some of the vendors more quickly, but you still need to go through that dedicated evaluation process.”

The first step is to build a representative evaluation team. It should include individuals from every department the new product will affect, from operators to end-users, Foot said. Then, this team needs to determine exactly what the product needs to do.

The team should then create a list of must-have and nice-to-have features and weigh them accordingly. With these standards in hand, the team can then identify all the vendors that produce applicable products and compare their offerings.

Next, the team should compile a short list of the best vendors and invite them to demonstrate how their products actually work.

Although this list shouldn’t be overly exclusive, evaluation groups need to preserve their time by weeding out all but the best candidates, Foot said. Once the presentations are over, the team can begin to make its final decision. Making that call, however, might take a great deal of deliberation.

“I think it’s important to remember the best product doesn’t always win,” he said. “You can buy the best product there is, but if they don’t have a large staff that can support you 24×7, that’s an issue. So, it’s more than just flat-out features that need to be involved with this — it’s really the total package.”

To successfully create consensus, the group will need a good facilitator because without a strong moderator to set and stick to the schedule, these discussions can devolve into chaotic debates, Foot said. Well-organized discussion is critical to this decision-making process because good communication among all the parties is required to make sure everything aspect of the product has been analyzed. If the team has done its job well, the product it chooses will be easily implemented, and the company will be able to transition without a hitch.

“If you have done a good evaluation, you know the impact that product is going to have on your organization,” Foot said. “There should be no surprises. If there is a surprise in the implementation, then you didn’t do your evaluation properly.”

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