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Software Selection Methodology 02/16/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in Software.
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Your company has grown; it is finally time to update the old software. You know they need something that is state of the art, but which one is best? Which one will meet their requirements? What are their requirements? Which one has the most likely chance for success? How will they even define success?

At this point management needs to take stock of the personnel available to them, along with their skills and availability. Since most companies are pretty lean in this tight economy, there is probably little availability among employees. Everyone is working full out just to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities. No one has time for a huge new project; or that’s what they think.

This is one of the best reasons to bring in an outside consultant. You have a specific project, with a start and an end point. The success of this type of project is easily defined – the best software is chosen, negotiated, bought, and possibly implemented.

The company needs a process to follow. A consultant who has done this before will have a defined methodology. That is where their value comes from. The consultant will be able to help organize the company, create a group of people who can make the right decisions. The consultant will have the time to make sure that all issues are discussed, analyzed, and documented so that intelligent decisions are made. He/She will be able to work with the company to ensure that the software decision is made based on the right criteria and not just made by some high-level manager whose cousin sells software.

A good outside consultant would be one who doesn’t partner with any of the software vendors. A good choice in a consultant for this type of project is one who could possibly help with implementation, but doesn’t specialize in specific software implementation. Some consulting companies will try to drive a company to pick a certain software so that they can share in the profits of the sale, or to guarantee that they can help with implementation. The consultant needed for the software selection process should not be biased toward any software solution, software, or company. They need to be open to any possibility so that the best solution for the company is found.

The methodology that the consultant brings is what is important. They should have a process that has been used before, and can be easily followed. There are plenty of web sites that describe methodologies for a software selection project. Just enter “Software Selection Methodology” into your favorite search engine web site to find different suggestions on how to proceed. You’ll also find plenty of consulting companies who specialize in the kind of search your company needs. I would go with a consultant or company with whom I already had a relationship. Choosing an unknown company has its own risks and opens you up to more selling from the consultants.

The first thing I do as the outside consultant is to organize a committee who will make the decisions. All the leaders from any department affected should be represented on the committee. This group should meet as often as necessary to get the project done. Then, following our process, we create an RFP, send it out to vendors and choose our top 4 or 5 companies for a short demo. Each company gets a 2 hour meeting to put their best step forward.

Reference checking is very important at this point. You need to talk to existing customers to verify that what the vendor is saying is accurate. Salesmen, by nature, will only show you what works, and what looks best. It is my job to get underneath that and show my client what the true picture of the software and vendor. We are not just selecting software or a vendor, but a partner who needs to be interested in the success of their new customer.

From there we can choose 2 companies for a full presentation of 2 days each. I create a very specific script for these demos so that the company can do very little selling, and a lot more presenting. We send the vendor some sample data so that the demonstration will have meaning. We can look at actual functionality of the software and how it will handle our specific issues.

The final step – before making a selection – is to do a customer visit. Some people may want to skip this step, but it is more important than it sounds. Again, all you have really seen is what you have been given by salesmen. You have an obligation to validate your opinions. You can also find out how the vendor responds to requests for support, recommendations for changes, etc. With a little creative questioning, you can find out hints for implementation and creating ways to use the new software.

You can now make a very informed decision on what software your company needs. The job isn’t over, though. A good consulting company can help with the contracts and price negotiation. With a big enough deal, that could pay for the help right there.

So, go out and do your research, create a process, get that consultant, and upgrade or replace your software. Remember it’s a global world out there and technology makes it happen.

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Comments»

1. project management software - 09/25/2011

Thanks for this blog post, Im considering borrow a snippet of this information for my blog if that’s fine with you, I will be sure to put you as a reference to the original article though.

TBoehm30 - 10/06/2011

Jenny:
Feel free to ‘borrow’ as much as you want. Any linkbacks would be appreciated.
Todd

2. Software Selection Methodology « ERP.BlogNotions - Thoughts from Industry Experts - 12/19/2011

[…] View Original Post at World Class Technology Discussions […]


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