This article was updated February 2021.
Businesses and organizations of all sizes and industries use a variety of technology programs and platforms to help manage their operations. From tracking customers and sales to supply chain management, technology is an integral part of helping companies run efficiently and to grow and scale in both volume and profit.
Rushing to incorporate or transition to new technology, programs, or platforms could result in monumental financial and operational consequences.
Learn how to assess your needs, vet potential vendors, finalize your contract, and manage implementation to ease common pain points and eliminate unnecessary costs.
Identify Your Technology System Needs
As continued advancements in technology bring innumerable applications to market, the decision to pivot programs or adopt new platforms becomes increasingly complex. Selecting the right vendor could lead to competitive advantages, greater efficiencies, and long-term cost savings.
To lay a foundation for success, it’s important to critically analyze your operational requirements and projected growth. This can help you better assess various vendor offerings and determine the best match for your organization’s needs.
Create a Map of Requirements
Before selecting or even interviewing a tech vendor, analyze your organization’s operations to develop a list of requirements that directly link to your business strategy.
Assess systems in place for customer relationship management, accounting, inventory, forecasting, and others to better understand where problems exist and where the symptoms of those problems are felt.
This process can help your organization map:
- Unique operational requirements and priorities
- Ownership over various systems
- Target outcomes for this new technology
- Potential returns on investment
- Future applications and growth opportunities
By outlining essential processes in advance, you can focus on selecting systems that fulfill your strategic business needs rather than settling for one with unnecessary bells and whistles.
Selecting the Right Vendor
The sheer volume of available vendors can be overwhelming particularly when so many offer similar types of tools. It’s critical to vet each vendor and their related software offering to make sure your organization finds the best options available for your needs. While it may be tempting, you shouldn’t hurry this exercise.
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Organizations can initiate the RFP process to get started on tech vendor selection. Develop a RFP that outlines your organization’s requirements and the process by which proposals will be evaluated. Vendors will use this RFP to create a roadmap of how they can deliver on the criteria you set. Those responses can be used to create a short list of vendors that you want to move forward with.
Software Application Demonstrations
Next, you’ll want to see demonstrations of these applications from your short list. To encourage an accurate preview, as opposed to a marketing push, provide a script to each vendor that prompts a detailed response to how the tool can perform to suit your needs and environment. The script should include your organization’s current usage scenarios and plans for growth.
Discussion of Criteria
With demonstrations completed, each vendor should receive an overall score to determine a final selection. In addition to what’s defined in the RFP and shown in the demonstration, other criteria to consider may include:
- Security frameworks for each program or platform
- Compliance with privacy regulations and data processing agreements
- Commitment to your success before, during, and after implementation
- Integration capabilities with your other programs and processes
- Innovation roadmap for the product
- Reputation of both vendor and product
Negotiate the Vendor Contract
Like any business agreement, your organization should be fully aware of the contract’s terms and conditions with a new vendor as well as any obligations for terminating a contract with a previous vendor. Other items to understand and carefully negotiate:
- Ownership of data contained in the system
- Service-level commitments
- Structure and pricing of ongoing costs
- Payment and invoicing structure
Tips to Implement a New Technology System
The implementation process can begin once a tech vendor is selected and contract terms are negotiated.
Consider developing a clear roadmap to address the technical aspects of integrating or pivoting systems, the adoption plan, and continued maintenance of your new technology.
Assistance from an Implementation Partner
There’s a lot of coordination at this level; some companies opt to work with an implementation partner that can coordinate both the technical and business sides.
This position might help to:
- Validate all necessary features in the software work together in a manner that’s seamless and easily integrated into day-to-day operations
- Run implementation test cases to determine whether further configuration is warranted to suit your needs
- Work with your organization to develop or provide technical training to staff
Regular Performance Evaluations
Beyond implementation, performance evaluations conducted at regular intervals can confirm that your systems and processes are supporting the organization’s operations as planned. A performance evaluation can include running through the organization’s business cycle to highlight reconfiguration needs, user adoption barriers, and opportunities for optimization.
Importance of System Maintenance
Additionally, at least once a year—if not more frequently—your tech will require operating system upgrades. When these upgrades occur, rerun the test cases from the initial implementation stage to determine if the software upgrades are working or if adjustments are needed.
We're Here to Help
Selecting a new platform or program for your organization can be a large undertaking with significant financial and organizational ramifications. You can ease many common pain points by preparing in advance.
Our Software Application consultants—which include members of the Project Management Institute and holders of the Project Management Professional designation—can help you steer your organization down the right path, identifying appropriate applications, assessing scalable technology architectures, and implementing solutions to meet current and future business needs.