Four Steps to Better Software Selection
Software applications hold incredible power to grow a business or iron out operational inefficiencies. But the biggest concern I hear from clients when they start exploring new software is that they feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. It’s a legitimate worry!
If it’s been a few years since you’ve re-examined your software position, you are entering a different world. There are many software options available today: cloud solutions, on premise, software as a service (SaaS), and hosted solutions (often advertised as the cloud). Navigating this landscape involves a steep learning curve for many.
But don’t let the technology market distract you from what you can control: your preparation. If you focus on what you need and lay the proper groundwork, the right software solution may start to reveal itself. Here are some key considerations.
1. Perform internal due diligence before engaging vendors
A lot organizations have incongruent or highly customized legacy systems, so if an individual department researches and selects a software application it feels best fits its functional requirements, it can have unwanted side effects: disjointed internal processes, duplicate entry into multiple systems, and a reconciliation nightmare.
You can help avoid this issue by engaging a broad audience in business process brainstorming sessions to identify current processes and the desired future state. This will allow you to look for ways to remove silos in legacy systems, eliminate duplicate tracking of information, and lead to a much more efficient and streamlined solution.
The outcome of these meetings should give you the information to develop a comprehensive list of requirements, and more importantly, the key differentiators for your business. This information will be useful when you begin the process of researching vendors for your project.
2. Employ scripts to steer vendor demonstrations
Vendors are going to want to demonstrate their bells and whistles, but you’ll want to ensure those bells and whistles are in service of the needs you want the application to address. So be sure to prepare comprehensive, process-driven demonstration scripts or use cases.
Doing so will require vendors to demonstrate their functionality as it directly relates to your internal processes and workflows. It will also make it more difficult for vendors to mask system weaknesses as they relate to your requirements. Most importantly, it enables you to more effectively compare software solutions.
3. Consider implementation factors before signing a contract
Before you select a vendor, ask about their internal implementation team and process. Check references, interview the actual implementation team, and evaluate their process for fit with your specific requirements.
Will implementation involve downtime? What internal resources will we need? In some instances, those answers might give you leverage during the negotiation process. You might also compare the vendor’s implementation plan with those offered by an independent implementer.
4. Identify an internal project lead
Once you have selected your preferred solution and implementer, identify an internal project champion. Ideally, a project champion should have a solid understanding of your organizational process flow and the key milestones. If internal resources are limited, consider utilizing a third-party project manager to be the conduit between your organization and the implementation team to keep the project on track in the agreed-upon timeline.
How we can help
Hopefully these tips give you a head start on selecting the right software system for your situation. If you’d like guidance at any step of this journey, our software selection team can help.
CLA professionals bring an independent lens to the vendor selection methodology, so you know you’re getting an impartial perspective, focused on your end-state vision.