It’s time for your business to deploy a new enterprise software package—perhaps it’s an ERP or CRM solution, or maybe it’s time for a new field service, human resources or project management platform. No matter which type of solution you need, the path to selecting the right enterprise software solution contains many potential road blocks. The route you choose can make or break the project’s success, so it’s critical to work with a valid map.
The key to charting your journey is the paradigm you apply as to how you will manage the evaluation process. It’s vital to take an agnostic approach with respect to the software solutions as well as the solution implementation partners you are considering.
Due to the natural bias that every business has about the solutions it offers, if you allow a software vendor or reseller to direct your evaluation, you risk getting boxed into the solution that works well for them—and not necessarily for your business. Even if a vendor or partner offers multiple solutions, they may be influenced by margins and available resources as to what they recommend.
Once you commit to taking an agnostic approach—where you drive the process or bring in an independent consultant to help you—there are two main phases to selecting an enterprise software solution—Requirements Definition and Solution Evaluation.
Requirements Definition starts by assessing the overarching business factors:
In addition to answering these questions, also take a look at the challenges your current software solution presents. What business process problems are you trying to solve? What new functionality do you need?
Another aspect to consider is the ROI that will justify deploying the new system. Consider not only the cost to purchase and implement the software and the hardware to run the application, but also the amount of time your internal resources will need to put in. Do you need to recoup those costs and start producing an ROI within one year? Three years? A longer time period?
The last step in the Requirements Definition phase is to determine the “knock-out” requirements—the functionality and the benefits you absolutely must get out of the solution. In other words, if a solution can’t do either X, Y or Z, it’s out of the game!
Identifying knock-out requirements is key as you move into the Solution Evaluation phase. Among your narrowed-down list of potential candidates, you will discover that they provide 80% of the same functionality. It’s the 20% difference that you want to analyze closely, and your knock-out requirements will likely be found or missing from that 20% difference among the solutions.
After completing the Requirements Definition phase, you then move into the Solution Evaluation phase. Here are the steps to follow:
In addition to evaluating the functionality of each solution you run through the demo step, also consider the general characteristics of the vendor and the software:
Key characteristics of the software to consider include whether it matches your preferences for running in the cloud, on-premises or a hybrid environment. Also consider if you require software that runs on open standards, or if a closed architecture is acceptable. This will determine how easy or difficult it will be to integrate the solution with other enterprise applications.
Going back to our comments earlier in the blog, the need to conduct an agnostic formal evaluation and eliminate bias towards one particular solution cannot be overemphasized. Vendors and solution implementers are likely to only show you the “shiny objects” that are meant to dazzle you and close the sale.
Your focus should be on objectively determining if and how a solution can solve your primary business challenges and provide the answers to your knock-out requirements. This can only be done by following scripted demos that are based on your particular needs.
In our next blog, we will take a look at negotiating your next software contract. For more information on how to manage your software selection process without bias, contact ATX Advisory at…