The beauty parade works a bit like the process for getting a new terminal five at Heathrow. You start with an identified need: more capacity, new software or new advertising strategy.
You invite the ‘usual suspects’ (current suppliers) and few others that you have heard of from colleagues or the media. They come and do a credentials presentation on why they are the best people for the job. The field is narrowed and a specification issued to which they respond with their solution and an estimate of cost.
From here on, it is downhill all the way. The proposals are not truly comparable and raise further questions, so there are a lot of debates and committee meetings, followed by a compromise selection. The design work is done and then piloted.
At this point, so much time has passed that the pilot shows that the original brief is no longer entirely valid, technology has evolved with more options available and the budget is no longer viable. More debate and committee meetings ensue and a new compromise between features and costs is agreed.
The project is delivered with or without the usual delays and cost overruns, is finally commissioned (hopefully successfully) and becomes operational – all too often just in time to start the whole process again.