Using objective and valid assessment and selection criteria
From the first interaction with a potential company, information starts to pour in. This needs to be recorded in an organized way to start forming the company’s profile. Additionally, this input needs to be assessed qualitatively against predetermined parametric values. As some parameters vary in their impact on how essential water efficiency is for the company, it might be needed to use weighted scoring to facilitate the comparison between companies. Lastly, having few guiding tools to streamline the conversation with the company towards achieving water efficiency can help accelerate the decision making process for shortlisting the companies for which full feasibility analysis is performed. Hence, under the framework of the project, two tools were developed and used during this phase of the project: The Company Data Sheet and the Weighted Scorecard Tool. While the Company Data Sheet is used to fill preliminary information about companies (i.e. contact information, general overview on water quality, quantity, usage distribution, main water efficiency pains, and the general feel on their willingness to engage with the project), the Weighted Scorecard Tool is used for assessing with more detail the companies and covers a long list of assessment criteria including technical, operational, financial, and management aspects.
Why should you care
With thousands of companies out there in the ecosystem, selecting the ones most suitable for your activities, can be a difficult task. Therefore, developing technical assessment tools to validate companies' data is essential to end up with an informed decision.
Key lessons learned with recommendations
Do not overload companies from the start
Conducting a holistic company assessment that allows you to select the most suitable companies requires taking into account technical, operational, financial and managerial aspects. At the same time, the data required for the assessment should ideally be collected in a single conversation or email. Especially at the beginning, you should limit the number of conversations so as not to overwhelm management and staff who also have to take care of day-to-day business. Once you have made contact with the relevant company staff (often the operations or facility manager), collect all the necessary information at once. In our experience, the first interview should be limited to a maximum of 90 minutes (less is even better). To use the Company Data Sheet build a profile and get a feel for whether the company is a 'go' or a 'no go'only basic data is needed. More detailed information for the use of the Weighted Scorecard Tool can be requested by email as soon as the potential company has been identified as promising.
Site visits with potential companies
An on-site visit to companies is crucial to get a comprehensive picture of the conditions on the ground and to check the commitment of the management as well as the company’s operational and financial capacities.
The initial visit to a company should address water efficiency needs and provide information on what water-related projects have been or are currently being implemented.
However, there may be a long silence after the first visit, as the relevant company staff are busy with their day-to-day work and expect you to submit a report a few days later. You need to extend communication immediately after the visit in order not to lose interest, while stressing the importance of having a complete set of data before drawing any conclusions.
Be aware of your role
It is of utmost importance that all concerned individuals are aware of and understand their roles. As technical advisor, you are a neutral facilitator and mediator between industrial companies and water technology providers. Only this neutral position of yours, ensures that the introduction of a certain technology achieves the desired effect while creating opportunities for (local) service providers. Therefore, make sure that all parties involved understand the neutrality of your position, not only at the beginning of the project, but throughout the entire process.
In few cases, assessed companies were first proposed by water solution providers, but this should be a reason to avoid such profiles to ensure neutrality. Neutrality can be still established if all companies are assessed against the same caliber and regardless of the proposed water efficiency solution/technology proposed.
When external consultants are hired to carry on water efficiency assessments as part of the project activities, the project team needs to clearly define the role of the consultant and clearly communicate that to the companies being assessed. External consultants should be aware that any communication with the selected companies must be streamlined through the project communication channels to avoid conflict of interest.
Maintain healthy communication
The quality of the professional relationship with any company boils down to your relationship and communication with its staff. This means that you will be confronted with different communication styles and therefore, from the first conversation or visit, it is important that you try to understand your counterpart’s preferred communication style (e.g. emails, text or voice messages, etc.) and develop a suitable communication strategy to maintain a healthy communication on the long term. Ask the company early on (already during the first conversation or visit), to name a focal point of contact and identify one person from your team to lead the communication with the company. Those people will be the cornerstone for data collection and setting meetings and site visits.
If a company is not responsive, take the hint! They are not committed. Hence, move on to the next company. If the company gets back to you later on, you can consider engaging them or not depending on your progress and capacity.
Use the fillable Microsoft Word form Company Data Sheet when visiting a candidate company for the first time to collect basic data and create a profile that serves as a comprehensive summary of key company information.
Use the Microsoft Excel template Weighted Scorecard to create a weighted scoring model that will allow you to evaluate the candidate companies and select the most suitable ones for your programme intervention.