Software SelectionThis is a process that you are probablly dreading partly because of the time it takes and partly because of the risks to your career. But it's also an opportunity to learn new tricks and find ways to improve business process. The following is a brief decription of our methodology for software selection.
Start with an understanding of Critical Success Factors (CSFs)
CSFs are defined as those things that you must do well in order to be successful. You can use CSFs as a way to determine whether a requirement is really critical. If a requirement can't be mapped directly to a CSF, then it's not critical.
Define measurements of success
Before starting any project, you should know how to measure success in terms of saving money by streamlining operations, increasing revenues, increasing market share... Measurements of success act as a motivator for staff during the implementation, help keep the project on track and focus effort on attaining important business objectives.
Understand existing business process and seek opportunities for business process improvement
Until you have understood the existing business process, you are not ready. Employees may not know that what they are doing is atypical. Roll up your sleeves and talk to the people who do the work. Remember the devil is in the details. Along the way, your value add may be in identifying ways to improve business process. Every problem is an opportunity in the new system.
Don't be ambiguous in the definition of requirements
The more ambiguous the requirement, the more interpretation in whether a particular vendor meets the requirement. You need to be precise so that you can compare apples to apples.
Don't waste time on basic functionality
Systems have matured to the point where the basics are done well. Focus only on the requirements that are unique or could vary by vendor.
Not all requirements are created equally. Use a numbering system such as "5" for critical, "4" for high, "3" for medium, "2" for low, "1" for N/A. If you have mostly "5"s, there is something wrong.
Manage scope, budget and timing
Project management is the key factor in predicting success of any project. Project management includes management of scope, budget and timing. Rather than using the school of hard knocks, you should consider working with a structured methodology such as published by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Get employee involvement
Recognize the significant amount of employee knowledge and the potential contribution of the employees. Unfortunately, the knowledge is typically in the heads of the employees and care must be taken to include their input. At the same time, you are effectively including them in the process and securing their buy-in for the process.
Assign an internal champion
An internal champion should be allocated to the project. Even the most difficult projects can become successful when you have an internal champion who is ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is best to assign the internal champion at the beginning of the system selection project to ensure their commitment and agreement with the system selected.
Manage the risks
Seek out potential risks, their impact, and their likelihood of occurring. Encourage all interested parties to develop strategies to mitigate the risks. Every organization has at least 1 naysayer, who can cause a lot of problems, but who is also very knowledgeable. The naysayers must be included in the risk management process. By getting their input early, you can avoid problems and you effectively limit their negativity.
Ensure management buy-in
Communicate scope of project and get sign off at critical steps along the way. Management should develop or ratify the measurements of success.
Identify potential vendors
You would be amazed at how many vendors want your business. Start with our Portals which you can access from the menu at the top. There are different kinds of vendors for you to consider:
- Generic/Horizontal - Typically have more customers and more resellers, which means more access to support. The generic systems usually shine when it comes to financials and user interface.
- Vertical - Additional functionality for the specific industry as well as more knowledge of best practices for that industry.
- Custom - These vendors start with a base product and will build exactly what you want.
To obtain lists of potential vendors:
- use our portals
- use internet searches
- contact colleagues
- contact consultants
- contact industry associations
- look at trade journals for articles and advertisements
- attend trade shows
- contact exhibitors from trade shows
Find a good reseller
The reseller or Value Added Reseller (VAR)/implementer can make a big difference. Often, companies selecting new systems spend a lot of time analyzing the product and the vendor but not enough time analyzing the capabilities of the VAR. The VAR could have been assigned by the vendor, and the VAR may not be the best choice. The vendors have a methodology for assigning leads to their partners/VARs that is not well-understood. You could be getting the next VAR on a list. Once a VAR is assigned, the vendors are reluctant to introduce another VAR, as it can lead to VARs competing with each other for the same prospect. So do some pre-screening of the VAR. Better yet, get the VAR's name from someone you know. Our portals also includes VARs.
Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP)
An RFP is a good tool to communicate your needs uniformly to vendors and to create a short list of vendors. Ask vendors to answer questions related to cost, technology, customer base, developer and implementer qualifications, and similar customers. Have the vendors respond to each requirement with a number such as "7" in current release and quoted in estimate, "6" in current release, "5" available in 6 months, "4" minor modification or workaround, "3" third party, "2" available in a year, "1" major modification or workaround, "0" not available. By extending the priority of each requirement times the vendor response, and then summing the results, you get a score that will give you an indication of closeness of fit for each vendor.
The vendors should know your Critical Success Factors and key requirements, and should be given an agenda so that time is allocated properly. In the 1st round, you should attend about 4 demonstrations, and limit the time to 2-3 hours. There will be time for a more detailed review later. Ask each attendee to identify major strengths and weaknesses, as well as score (-10 to +10) how well they did for each topic on the agenda as well as indicate its importance (1 to 10).
You will be amazed at how much you learn and how little some of the vendors know their customers. Have a checklist of questions to ask such as our checklist that can be obtained by clicking here. Tell the reference a little about yourself before asking any questions so that they have a level of comfort with you.
Prove that the system will work for you
Prepare a script that contains sample transactions that should be processed through the entire system. The script is a day in the life at your company will contain the most important business processes with sample documents and reports. You could ask 2 vendors to conduct the proof of concept. This is a time consuming task for the vendors as well as for you in attending the demonstration. But you are only focusing on the vendors most likely able to win your business.
Negotiate the price and the contract
It's a buyer's market. You will get a minimum of 10% off the first quote. Many of the vendors offer competitive pricing when they know they could lose to a competitor who could offer a reasonable solution at lower a price.
Know the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
You need to understand all the costs including license fees, implementation, support, hardware, networks and communications before making a decision. There should be no surprises later. Click here for more about TCO.
Do a Boardroom Pilot
You need to work with the system to understand the many options. You may think that a customization is required until you better understand the various workarounds. The vendor has an idea of the customizations, but has probably not created a specification or given you a firm quote. Use the boardroom pilot as a way for the vendor to understand your requirements and for you to better understand the system before signing a contract and purchasing the software. You will need to pay the vendors for their time. You should get a fixed price as one of the deliverables of the boardroom pilot.