Buying Software for your Business? A few simple rules…

Many people selecting a new piece of business software have been involved in software projects before. They remember the dreamy vision painted by the software seller, they had expectations that the solution would fix all their problems, that the implementation process would be as smooth as slipping on a silk glove and that life would suddenly be wonderful.Top Technology The reality was often quite different. In surveys around 75% of software implementations either failed to deliver the agreed objectives, drastically exceeded the budget or were delivered long past the intended go-live date.

So, how do we ensure that our new software solution is in the 25% of successful implementations? Well, let’s firstly understand what the main reasons are for unsuccessful projects. The biggest reason is a poor understanding of the gap between your business requirements and the functionality and features provided by the new solution. The result is the software does not meet the users expectations and cannot deliver the desired and expected business benefits. Many of the companies that fall into the 75% of failures did so by running a software beauty parade; they had a procession of software vendors who had time slots to demonstrate their solutions, and they bought the one they perceived to be the prettiest. Marry in haste….

Now, the proven way to maximise your chances of selecting the right solution should involve a process of short-listing suppliers, this can be done easily with a concise questionnaire (RFI) covering high-level functionality, their experience in your market, some due diligence on the supplier e.g. size, resource skills, financial stability. By creating a short list you can focus much more time on fewer potential suppliers – remember, we are not looking for a series of one-night stands, but a meaningful relationship!

Make sure you have an agreed scope for the project and then really get into the detail of the requirements. Ideally you would document each step of every process in your business, but a complete requirements list should be a minimum. Certainly on larger, more complex projects this is a serious undertaking and one where external support may pay off in the end. Each potential supplier should document how their solution will meet every requirement identified, clearly stating if it is met out of the box, perhaps with some modifications or with an acceptable work-around. Finally, a set of well documented Business Scenarios should be used to validate each suppliers claims through detailed workshops which may run over a number of days.

On average, companies run their core business software for 7 to 10 years before changing. Due diligence on the provider, and an understanding of the risk and impact of them pulling out of your market, or even going out of business, should be serious concerns when you are looking at that length of relationship.

Check-list

  • Understand and document your requirements and business objectives
  • Ask suppliers to document how their solution meets the requirements
  • Provide detailed real business scenarios for the demonstrations
  • Understand the impact of the supplier withdrawing services, and have contingencies
  • Be clear about responsibilities in the delivery; who is doing what?

At the end of the day you have to manage risk, but don’t let that stop you delivering your vision.

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