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Selecting The Right Software For Your Business

by Scott Lewis

Winning Technologies assists many companies while they work through the process of software selection. Most of the time, they know that what they have is not working for their business. They want to change, but they often fall into the trap of letting the software vendors select it for them through a demonstration process coupled with an emotional reaction, which I call the WOW factor. So how do you select the right software for your business without it being an emotional purchase, or it being laser focused on fixing a single issue?

The first rule of thumb that I use is not to put the IT department in charge of software selection. Software selection should be a business decision based on business processes, or lack thereof. The shortcomings in those processes is what is driving the need for automation and software. The technical aspect of it is important but it is only a single spoke in the wheel. Always keep in mind that this is a purchase that will drive your business into the future, so it should be managed by someone who knows the business issues and can make decisions for the business.

When looking at software I always try to setup a preliminary set of criteria that will help set the table for the rest of the search. This criteria can change based on the business model, and the type of software that you are looking for.

I start with identifying the need for the software or the application. What is the business process you are trying to solve? What are the factors that are driving the need for making a software acquisition? If you can clearly identify the business need and justify that need than that will become the overall goal of the plan.

Set your priorities. What is important to have in the software? I call these deal killers. These are the highest importance functions or features that the software must have.  One of these items might be integration to other software packages. Make sure that you clearly define what the word integration means to you. Another deal killer might be that it must be a SQL system or be a web application. Identify what this is and then detail it out. With software, the devil will be in the details of the software.

What are the business critical or mission critical features or functions? Each department is going to have specific needs and requirements of the new software, so each one of these needs must be broken down into its smallest components.

An example may be integration. Ask yourself: What does that mean? Is that import and export integration? Is that integration bi-directional? What specific functions and factors are going to be integrated? And, what functions aren’t? What kind of new process is going to be needed for the different departments involved in the selection process?

Operational integration is another area that you must be concerned with because any software change is going to require an operational change within your organization. You have to be ready to change the way you operate to fit the overall requirements of the software. Having identified them in advance you can easily determine if the change in operations is going to be acceptable or not, and then that could eliminate a software contender.

Another very important factor is the support model of the vendors you are evaluating. Do they have 24 hour a day support or are you locked into a Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. support model?  Is that acceptable to your business model? What are the costs for support and are there any hidden fees for support? This is going to be one factor in determining the overall cost of ownership and a factor in measuring the return on investment.

 Growth is again a criteria that you must evaluate - not only your growth, but the vendor’s growth and the ability of the software to grow and expand as your needs change and expand. As part of your overall strategy of software selection you should be inquiring about the history of the company, but more importantly what the vendor sees as the future for their company. In the days of acquisitions, is the company going to merge or be purchased, and what does that mean for you? What is the ability of the software to grow based on your needs so what does future development look like for the software?

One criteria that you must have is the ROI, return on investment criteria. How are you going to measure if you are better off? Once you have selected and implemented the software, trained your team and used the software for a period of time, you must be able to measure if it was a success. Although it can be difficult to define what success means, it should be defined and measured so you can support the overall process and show that the business investment has paid off.

Software selection can be one of the most difficult things a company can do. It can also be the most costly thing you do in the short and long term if it is not done right. Winning Technologies has many clients that we have walked through this process and been very successful with the selection process. We also have several clients that did it the old fashion way, and most went through a high level of frustration either to get it to work or to finally move away from the software because it simply wasn’t the right software from the very beginning.

Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies.  The Winning Technologies Group of companies is an international technology management company. Scott has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry, is a nationally recognized speaker on technology subjects such as Collocation, Security, CIO level Management, Data and Voice Communications and Best Practices related to the management of technology resources.  Learn more about Winning Technologies at www.winningtech.com or call 877-379-8279.   

Submitted 9 years 136 days ago
Categories: categoryTechnology
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